Artist Statements

University of Dayton:

1. Caroline Merrithew, Associate Professor of History: The photo was taken in late summer 2016 on a visit to Garden Station. This tomato hornwom [Manduca quinquemaculata] caterpillar is a pesky visitor -- master gardener and manager, Lisa Helm, told me -- that won't let the tomatoes alone. I also learned that day about the City of Dayton's plans to evict Garden Station from its home of 8 years. The color green masquerades for a lot of different types of growth -- from economic to organic. How tragic it is when a rust belt city's leadership refuses to acknowledge different types of development and possibilities. Volunteers created, at Garden Station, a vibrant community space, brought educational programs to children and adults, and planted and harvested locally grown nourishing food for the city.  As of Oct. 31, 2016 the garden has begun to be torn up and its gardeners, artists and supporters evicted despite thousands of community members' protests.

2. Darden Bradshaw, Assistant Professor and Area Coordinator for Art Education, Department of Art and Design: Spending the bulk of the summer in South America and Europe, I found myself confronted by the manner in which global visual culture is sustained, interrupted, reinterpreted, and revised through communal spaces.  I use the process of visual journaling and documentation of space -- through collaged and sewn works juxtaposed with photographs-- to foster a dialogue about community.  In what ways does street art, often reviled and discarded, become a space through which artists and community members comment upon the truest question of all?  Who are we and how do we connect?

3. Ryan McEwan, Associate Professor, Environmental Biology Program Coordinator, Department of Biology : Buried: On September 22, 2016 a study published in the Journal of Geophysical Research found a substantial and abrupt increase in sea level in the Indian Ocean.  This research comes in the wake of research published in February of 2016 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that demonstrated that recent sea level increase is faster than at any other time in the last 27 centuries and is almost certainly a result of human caused global warming.  These studies are simply confirmations of what serious scientists have known for decades:  (a) the planet is warming due to fossil fuel combustion, (b) this is driving increases in sea level, which (c) will put incredible stress on human societies, especially coastal communities lacking in economic resources.  In those coastal places, civilizations are being consumed by the sea. My intention with this image is to express the idea of the sea rising to bury human civilization. There is a sense of resigned loss, of human flesh mingling with or being reclaimed by the coastal sands, and a spatial/vertical unease (can this be real?). 

Mingling: On June 29, 2016 the State of Florida issued a state of emergency in response to a toxic algal bloom caused by the same organism that a year earlier had created a similar emergency in Toledo, Ohio.  In the case of Toledo, 400,000 people were without water. In both cases, the transmutation of water from life-sustaining to deadly was caused by an innocuous and native algae that was driven from agricultural excesses to catastrophic overpopulation that caused nutrient pollution in small streams.  In an unfolding story, which may rise to the forefront of pollution concerns, scientists are discovering that tiny particles of plastic are pouring off the landscape into streams and finding their way inevitably into large water bodies like the Great Lakes.  These plastics are being found in large fish such as salmon that are being consumed by humans.  We are blissfully supping our own plastic poisons.  Like capillaries feeding the human circulatory system, small waterways are ecologically and environmentally connected to the water quality and food webs within rivers, lakes and even oceans.  With this image, I seek to force the viewer into a state of visual confusion. This visual mingling of sky, earth, tree and water is a plea for our recognition of the intimate relationship between them all. Can we really say where one begins and the other ends?

4. Viorel Paslaru, Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy: Dr. Pâslaru’s primary research interest is in philosophy of science and ecology, with a particular focus on explanation in ecology. He joined the faculty at the University of Dayton in 2007 after he had defended his dissertation on ecological mechanisms and their explanatory role. He was formerly an assistant researcher at the Institute of Philosophy of the Romanian Academy.

5. Felix Fernando, Post-Doctoral Assistant in Sustainability: This picture shows a storm cloud over a wheat field in rural North Dakota. The storm cloud is beautiful, looks peaceful, and very colorful. However, the storm that followed was neither beautiful nor colorful. Mother earth is like a colorful storm cloud right now. Humanity must do everything it can to keep it that way or face the wrath of the storm that follows. 

6. Glenna Jennings, Assistant Professor, Area Coordinator for Photography, Department of Art and Design:  I have spent several summers at Nanjing University of the Arts in China, conducting educational workshops with Chinese students who assist me with research into photography as social practice. These images document public interventions in a local park in Nanjing, where I used the National Cash Register Corporation’s historic images as material for language lessons.  The reproduced photographs depict John H. Patterson’s industrial betterment efforts, specifically group calisthenics and individual hygiene requirements. Evoking the NCR founder’s interest in photography as a tool for “teaching through the eye,” I use these materials as catalysts for cross-cultural communication on topics ranging from capitalist identity to everyday life. Participants were invited to a make-shift outdoor classroom where they provided Mandarin lessons in exchange for small reproductions of the images. In Dayton, I am conducting a similar schedule of performances with the symbolic aim of restoring this private, local history to its public. However, in China (and soon in Mexico), the images enact a more open-ended exchange that questions issues relating to civic imagination, social engagement, and the latent surplus value of these otherwise forgotten and anonymous histories.

Place and Space are consistent themes in my work, which ranges from constructed photography to socially-engaged art, video, curating and writing. I strive to create or enter spaces in which History and Memory may intermingle with notions of the Public and the Private. This work often involves intense periods of travel and public intervention followed by reflective research and production. I am convinced that object-making and studio practice still hold relevance in the post-visual ethos of Art as Social Practice. Thus, my work reflects an ongoing critical dialog among artistic autonomy, commodity culture, and meaningful, creative social engagement.

7. Karen Korn, Adjunct Faculty Member of Sustainability Energy and the Environment (with husband Patrick Lang): We see pollinators as key players in sustaining life as we know it. Patrick and I live just off of campus in a privileged community where people have the resources to be able to plant a variety of species that need a variety of pollinators. All of these photos were taken within 3 miles of the UD campus in an urban residential landscape. It's my hope that people view these creatures as the beautiful resources they are, and continue to view their yards as opportunities to help these helpful creatures.

8. Chenglong Zhao, Assistant Professor with joint appointment in the Department of Physics and The School of Engineering; Qiwen Zhan, Professor and Managing Director, UD Fraunhofer Joint Research Center: The sun provides tremendous amounts of clean energy. It strikes the earth continuously with a total energy more than 10,000 times the total energy used in the world. If this energy can be efficiently collected and used, it will help to reduce significantly the global warming emissions and improve the environment. The figure above shows a state-of-the-art solar system, known as the third-generation solar cell, which can be used to convert solar energy to electricity efficiently in a clean and environmentally-friendly way. This research is conducted by Prof. Chenglong Zhao from the Department of Physics and Prof. Qiwen Zhan from the Department of Electro-Optics and Photonics at the University of Dayton. The research is funded by the Hanley Sustainability Institute at the University of Dayton."

9. Emily Sullivan Smith, Assistant Professor of Foundations, Department of Art and Design: For a week in June 2016, I traveled through Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks. These monuments are tucked deeply within the western American landscape, and yet are immensely globally diverse in their visitors. Buses full of eco-tourists speaking a variety of languages abounded at each natural wonder. I was struck by the collaborative nature of the travelers who seem to be in agreement that these landscapes should remain preserved for further generations. As the National Park system is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, I took note of the relative youth of this collective agreement that the lands should be preserved, and I am deeply grateful that they have been.

10. Joel Whitaker, Professor, Department of Art and Design: Several years ago, in a single day, a series of tornados moved through the American south. My connection to this place and event is tentative but nonetheless linked. As a result of these storms, and the realization that this was an event witnessed and not experienced I set out to make, not a literal document of the damage, but photographs that explore the issue of losing things; the transitory nature of all things. In the resultant photographs, the presumed narrative qualities or the anecdotal aspects of the photographs do not interest me, but more the "picture" qualities, the poetic, and the open ended gray areas of signification in the photographs; the space between recognition and acceptance.   

The photographs presented here continue a project that has been in development since 2012 and can be thought of as a second chapter in that body of work entitled, When Things Go Missing. They continue my fascination with the representation of a place, the process of arriving at this representation, and my physical and intellectual engagement with a place, a process, and a recollection. I am particularly interested in the notion and ephemeral nature of structure, location, and process; physically, psychologically, and photographically.

I consider my surroundings and the photographic medium transitional; organic things that are constantly in flux, both physically and intellectually. My goal is to think more about what I have and what I can do with it, and do so through contemplation, engagement, and execution. I see the photograph and the photographic process as a way to engage in various methodologies regarding the act of art making through the more suggestive and poetic qualities of the process and resultant work. I make photographs from (the use of the preposition from is intentional over the use of the preposition of) very basic things, common things, and do so in common places. I have always shied away from the exotic and prefer to rely on things close at hand. I rarely travel any great distance to photograph and I work economically with minimum fuss. I consider photography to be a pliable and malleable medium and do not hold any preconceived notions as to what a photograph should look like, nor how it should be made. 

In my photographs I am not looking for the summarizing image of a place or an event but the transitional: the space between completion and collapse, between time and place, knowing and unknowing. I utilize the photographic process as a way to explore this notion as well as the more suggestive and poetic qualities of the medium. The resulting photographs are as much informed by my experiences in such places as by my relationship to the physical and intellectual underpinnings of the photographic medium that serve as a record of these experiences and interactions.

11. Katie Schoenenberger, Interim Coordinator for Undergraduate Sustainability Curriculum and Experiential Education: Morning Fog: Taken on the drive down the mountain from the summit observation deck, this images shows a view through the forest understory during a morning fog. The forest near the summit is primarily a mixed Red spruce and Fraser fir forest, with both species shown in the image. What is less obvious in the image is the story of invasive species on Mt. Mitchell and the Southern Appalachians as a whole. The Balsam wooly adelgid, a small wingless insect, has affected the majority of the Fraser fir population in this area, leading to widespread “ghost” forests with the remaining Red spruce stands also experiencing decline due to environmental factors (magnified by their increased exposure following fir death). Though this picture is of one place and one story of invasives in the Southern Appalachians, the decline in biodiversity and the effects of invasive species is common to all areas around the world.

40,000 Year Old Spruce: As you approach the Holes Creek outcrop at Huffman Park, it looks admittedly like a less than impressive pile of mud and rock that the creek is slowly eating away. Yet with my every visit to this site, it is the details that stun and bring the story of Dayton, the Midwest and the world’s geologic and environmental past alive. The creek is surrounded by a deciduous stand of trees common to any nearby park or backyard, but when you carefully follow the creek along the outcrop, you will find spruce wood, from small branches to large logs, emerging from the glacial till creek bed. Distinguished from the warm environment-loving deciduous species logs falling into the creek from the banks, these cold-loving spruce logs, encased in glacial sediments, have been preserved for over 40,000 years, encased in glacial sediments. They are our connection to a time when continental ice sheets repeatedly blanketed North America and much of the Northern Hemisphere.  A remnant of one of the most recent glaciations of this area, the spruce logs not only tell the story of the ice and sediments that preserved them at Holes Creek, but they also relate the story of dramatic climatic change over hundreds of thousands of years here in our own backyard and around the world.

Lichen on Boulder: Taken along a path that runs through the Mountain Lake Biological Station, this image shows at least two different types of lichen growing on a large igneous boulder. The opportunity to take this image came as part of co-teaching a UD GEO/BIO week long intensive INSS field trip for non-science majors to the Mountain Lake area of Virginia. On our many hikes, students were encouraged to observe all aspects of the environment around them, from the physical features and geology, to the plant and animal communities present. The week long intensive field course culminated in small group research projects and a “symposium” for group presentations. That experience stands out in my time at UD as a model example for the impact of experiential learning, and hopefully it will remain a memorable experience for the now UD alumni who were involved. 

Purple Mushroom: Taken on a hike around Mountain Lake, just down the hill and along the lake’s main hiking path from the Mountain Lake Lodge, this image not only shows the fortunate chance sighting of a striking purple mushroom, but it also connects to one of the most significant environmental challenges in the Mountain Lake area as the mushroom is growing on a rotting hemlock log. Similar to the story of the Frasier firs of Mount Mitchell and the Southern Appalachians, the Hemlock forests in the Blue Ridge area of Virginia are experiencing decline due to and invasive species, in this case the Hemlock woolly adelgid.  What was once a supremely picturesque hemlock-ringed lake now shows noticeable “ghost” tree stands around the lake and in surrounding forests.

12. Geno Luketic, Fine Arts Studio Coordinator, Department of Art and Design: My research in ceramics has led me to a point where I am developing my ability to work solely with local clay - an art lost for the most part by the past two generations of artists working in the field.  I am motivated to embrace and create a sense of place through my work and studio practice and share that connection with others in my community. This consciously inefficient turn in the sourcing of my clay is also a reflection of the conflict and confrontation revealed by my studio practice. Unsustainable mining practices conducted by global mineral corporations create the raw materials from which most commercial clay bodies are formed. Though I use a mere fraction of a fraction of the material mined, it remains a conflict that I must confront through my research. It is my hope that the wider ceramic community will itself take a closer look at the nature of the material upon which we build our work.  

13. Joel Pruce, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science; Photo by Steven Dougherty, student and double major in English and Philosophy: Following the 2014 uprising in Ferguson, Missouri, leaders from the protest movement founded Hands Up United, a grassroots organization in north St. Louis. Hands Up United hosts film nights, a food pantry, a library, and a technology training institute for youth and families across the city. Its flagship program is Books and Breakfast, a monthly event that brings people together for meals and educational discussions about radical black history and literature. The activists behind Hands Up United believe that freedom comes through building community from the ground up, beginning with those that society has marginalized, neglected, and excommunicated.

14. Roger Crum, Professor, Area Coordinator for Art History, Department of Art and Design: I am an art historian who looks at nearly everything, sometimes for purposes of historical documentation and other times simply because something has caught my eye.  I regularly make objects and imagery, and some of these on occasion rise to the level of art.  Ask Yourself Hard Questions is one of those things I made that simply became bigger than my initial intention.  It was late fall, 2011, and I was in New York on a research trip to study the site of Ground Zero and the rising construction and memorialization in that place after September 11, 2001.  Just weeks earlier, the Occupy Wall Street movement had begun at Zuccotti Park, only a few blocks away from Ground Zero and my hotel.  When I arrived in the city, the Occupy Movement was still at full strength and Zuccotti Park was a gravitational force that continued to draw many protesters and even more onlookers who ranged from the concerned to the merely curious.  I joined that group of onlookers and, for the better part of an afternoon, I wandered about the park, weaving a silent way among the many protesters and the signs and sounds of their activism.  For most of them their subject was singular: the entrenched and institutionalized economic disparity and injustice in America. But like all major protest movements, Occupy Wall Street attracted those with other agenda.  There, that afternoon, at the edge of the park, was a small group of environmental activists, whose particular issues were not entirely clear but whose overall message was obvious:  the global environment, our global commons, was in trouble.  Walking past this group, I was immediately struck and stopped in my tracks by the silent but plaintive presence of a young woman who became the subject of my photograph.  I saw her because I was there; she impressed me because she looked so much like the similarly sad and imploring Venus whose birth upon the waters was captured by Sandro Botticelli in the full Florentine spring of the Italian Renaissance.  In its Neoplatonic underpinnings, Botticelli’s Venus is a doleful image of reluctant arrival into an uncertain and imperfect world.  That equivocation was registered and has long been recognized in the beautiful but less-than-tranquil face of Botticelli’s goddess; that equivocation is also resonated by the verdant but strangely barren landscape behind Venus’s arrival.  From Botticelli to Bosch, so much of Renaissance landscape presents a beguiling vista of nature only to hint in the details or in the general oddness of a place that something is amiss in the natural world.  It was wholly idiosyncratic my momentary connection, as a scholar of Florentine Renaissance art, of this young woman and Botticelli’s Venus.  Yet there in Zuccotti Park she was, and for me she was every bit Botticelli’s Venus in form, feature, and demeanor.  More importantly still, there she was with her message, though silent and outnumbered in protest among those who shouted about dollars and cents and percentages of unjustly earned income.  Hers was a kindred but different purpose.  There she was a modern goddess in green saying nothing but advancing with pressing, painted poster board her gentle imperative to us about the very and fragile global commons into which she and we have been born.

Mercator Research institute, Berlin:

1. Matthias Kalkuhl Tragedy of the commons: These fishermen on the White Nile use a close meshed net which will also catch juvenile fish and therefore prevent the recovery of fish stocks. Although the use of closed meshed nets is forbidden, government capacity is too low to implement the law and prevailing poverty gives people hardly any other alternatives to make a living.

The moon shall belong to all mankind: “The exploration and use of outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be carried out for the benefit and in the interests of all countries, irrespective of their degree of economic or scientific development, and shall be the province of all mankind. Outer space, including the moon and other celestial bodies, shall be free for exploration and use by all States without discrimination of any kind, […].” (Article I of the ‘Outer Space’ Treaty) 

We have an unknown river yet to explore: “What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls rise over the river, we know not. Ah, well! We may conjecture many things.” (John Wesley Powel 1874). Once a mighty and flooding river, the Colorado River regularly falls dry and does not reach the sea at all. The drying up is a symptom of global warming as well as failing institutions to fairly distribute the water and maintain the river and delta ecosystems. 

New Jerusalem: Christianity was established in Ethiopia around 300 AD and the Ethiopian Orthodox Church is one of the very few pre-colonial Christian Churches in Sub-Saharan Africa. The picture shows a church in Lalibela, a place of pilgrimage built in the 12th and 13th century to symbolize Jerusalem after its capture. The churches were carved out from soft volcanic rock and are today a UNESCO’s World Heritage site.

If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants (Isaac Newton): The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University contains hundreds of thousands of rare books and is a repository of human knowledge. It is an archive of evolving cultures, sciences and literature – a precious social common. 

2. Susann Reinsch Land as common property: In former times, Aboriginal land was annexed by the British settlers. Nowadays, it needs to be secured. The natives defended “their” land and the colonists took it as “their” land. Whose is it?? 

Pipalyatjara I: A rural, aboriginal area in the authentic Australian outback – red sand, bushes, insects, camels, heat. Land as it was meant to be.

Pipalyatjara II: A village – fondly called Pip – where white people try to teach and socialize Aborigines. It takes 4hours through the desert on a four-wheel-drive vehicle to get there, and all of a sudden tradition meets development. A long way to go.

3. Elisabeth Nierhoff Live in Abundance: On the Eve of Rosch ha-Schana, the Jewish New Year, people in Jerusalem do the shopping for holiday in the Jehuda Market. There is plenty of everything: not only people, food, smells, loudness, but also religions, traditions and values. 

A Sunday in L.A.: Although it is Sunday morning, 8 o’clock, there is a traffic jam on a highway with ten lanes. It demonstrates impressively the way of living in a US megacity.

Picture-perfect: You see bone dry, sculpted, golden brown rock. Only the sparsest vegetation can survive in this terrain. The dunes are composed of sediments from Furnace Creek Lake, which dried up 5 million years ago. The rare rain that comes to Death Valley arrives in the form of strong downpours, which form the rills and gullies that reshape the landscape

4. Thang Dao Nguyen A summer morning: This mountainous area in Saanen seems to be a sample for harmonized lives in which the human well-being depends directly on the quality of the commons. This sample is indicative of the fact that Switzerland is one of the countries having the highest environmental quality and life expectancy. 

5. Jan Christoph Steckel The Yellow House: The Uros people live on floating islands on Lake Titicaca. For centuries they build their homes out of reed they cut from the lake’s shores. The next generation learns how to read and write in this yellow-painted school, a building which seems to come from another world. 

Road to Mandalay: In the harbor of Mandalay, a woman crosses bamboo rafts that are collected on the Irrawaddy River to be transported further. In the absence of other decent transportation infrastructure, the river that crosses the country from North to South is an important traffic artery for the country, both for goods and persons. 

Running Water: 27% of Myanmar’s population does not have access to an improved water source. Where it is missing, water is transported over long distances by ox carriages and then stored in small water reservoirs. 

When I grow up: From 1990 to 2015 China’s GDP per capita has increased from USD 726 to USD 6,420, having lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and allowing to dream for a better future. 

Shaky Grounds: Forest is cleared to rebuild houses that were destroyed during a major earthquake in 2005. The new foundations have already been put in place on the muddy ground. Rainforests in Indonesia have largely been diminished in recent decades and with them disappears a fascinating world hosting many of the planet’s plants and animals.

6. Ira Dorband Nuclear Power Plant Grafenrheinfeld: After almost 35 years of operation, power generation was ceased in June 2015. Full dismantling the plant will take another 12 to 20 years, causing over 450,000 tons of construction waste and an unknown amount of radioactive waste. 

Agricultural structures around Hampi: The village and temple town of Hampi dates back to the 14th century when it was the capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar and one of the richest and largest cities during its prime. In 2015, UNESCO voiced concerns that the irrigation and water-intensive agricultural practices such as rice fields and sugarcane pose a threat to the conservation of this World Heritage Site.

Cape Town at night: The beautifully glowing bay in the moonshine conceals the city's bloody history during the Apartheid regime and the still ongoing segregation between the rich and the poor. 

Fishermen on Mannar Island: Fisheries are the main source of income on the island. Traditionally, fishermen use stake nets which are tied to wooden poles throughout shallow waters and lagoons. Increased economic activity and the use of large metal poles after the end of the civil war in 2009 is now posing a threat to corral reefs and endangered species like sea turtles which get caught in the nets. 

7. Jennifer Garard Turbines on a pilgrimage. Just past Pamplona on the Camino de Santiago, a series of wind turbines can be seen stretching out along the mountain tops. This illustrates the cultural importance of a historical World Heritage Site, the route of the pilgrimage itself, juxtaposed with a more recent attempt to address the pressing challenges posed by a global commons problem – climate change. 

8. Michael Jakob The Lovers: Does this young couple fail to realize the heap of trash, don’t they mind, or do they try to ignore it?

Future Proof: These houses on stilts are ready for several meters of sea level rise – at least as long as they are not blown away by a storm.

9. Max Franks Sternfahrt: A sustainable future world will require a more sustainable transport sector. During Berlin's annual 'Sternfahrt', cars are banned from the city's Autobahn in order to make room for thousands of bicycle enthusiasts. Small local steps towards greener infrastructure must be scaled up cooperatively to the global level.

10. Thang Dao Nguyen In the middle of Global Commons: Any individual may benefit from the global commons and the value of our lives depends directly on the quality of global commons. Avoiding the „Tragedy of the Commons“ not only requires the government’s management but also that individuals respect the commons. 


Biodiversity Series

1. Matthias Kalkuhl Brother: Due to hunting and shrinking habitats, there are only less than 900 mountain gorillas worldwide remaining. Their habitat in the border triangle between Uganda, Ruanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo is under threat due to oil discoveries and violent conflicts in Congo.

2. Jan Christoph Steckel Friends: Legend says that when the N’gorongoro Crater was first discovered by European settlers they thought they found Paradise. The Crater hosts a wide variety of animals and plants and is the central part of N’Gorongoro Conservation Area, a World Heritage Site since 1979. It is the only conservation area in Tanzania that protects wildlife while still allowing human habitation by the Massai. 

Forest Colors: Two Red-and-Green macaws fly over tree tops. 

3. Irs Dorband Elephant: Thanks to armed protection of its national parks, Botswana has been successful in eradicating poaching. However, also this old bull is missing one of his tusks. 

4. Thang Dao Nguyen Preservation and Entropic Processes: Every moment, the entropic process transforms the availability of material, rendering it unavailable, while the preservation process makes the resource renewable to compensate the entropic process. These two processes naturally guarantee the biodiversity and continuum of our natural commons. 

5. Michael Jakob Iguana: This iguana is as harmless as its friendly smile suggests. As most animals on the Galápagos have few or no natural enemies, they are unlikely to flee if approached by humans.


Glacier Series

 1. Max Franks Glacier I-IV: These pictures show the unique glacier "arena" surrounding Gorner Ridge in Switzerland. Global cooperation to limit climate change is needed to preserve its otherworldly beauty.

Hourglass: A close-up shot of the largest glacier in the Alps, the Aletsch Glacier, shows melting water running down an icicle. Its resemblance of an hourglass reminds us that time is running out to find ways to establish global cooperation on climate change mitigation.

2. Michael Jakob Kind of Blue: Despite heavy calving in summer, which may give the impression that Perito Moreno is falling into pieces, this Patagonian glacier is one of the few that is actually growing.