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Local Artists Confront Climate Change In New Exhibit

The impacts of climate change – what many environmentalists now call “the climate crisis” – are so vast they can be hard to grasp. Australia ablaze, coastlines disappearing beneath the sea, and climate refugees fleeing drought, famine and flood are just the start of a process that’s already reshaping human civilization.

"Counterpressures" opens with a reception and gallery talk, 7-8 p.m. Thu., Feb. 20. Exhibit continues through July 12. Carnegie Museum of Art, 4400 Forbes Ave., Oakland

The painter Su Su is among the local artists the Carnegie Museum of Art asked to participate in a group exhibit addressing the present and future of climate change through the lens of their lived experiences. Su Su’s contribution, inspired in part by the children’s story “The Three Little Pigs,” is among the works by 10 contributors in “Counterpressures,” which opens in the museum’s Forum Gallery Thursday.

Su Su’s work characteristically employs surreal, often distorted imagery, and imagery from popular culture from both the U.S. and China, where she was born. “Three Little Pigs” is a triptych incorporating multiple perspectives on environmental issues. As in the children’s story, she said, “It’s about [the] value of preparation, of how we build the strongest home for ourselves or our family, and how we unify together -- you know, the three little piglets, brothers, helping each other to find the best solution to defeat the pressures, the dangers from outside.”

wooden_walls_second_ships_10_0.jpg
Credit Courtesy of the artist
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"Wooden Walls Second Ships #10" is a photograph by Allison Blair.

The painting also includes an image of a piggy bank – Su Su said she had one as a child – and references to a massive pork-processing plant that was a big polluter back home in China. The exhibit’s title, “Counterpressures,” nods to a line in Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring” about how nature responds to human activity. Su Su said that, as consumers, we are still responsible for the unintended consequences of our actions.

“As a customer, it’s always in the back of my head,” she said. “So when I’m buying ham -- and they’re delicious, I love them myself! When I’m having the action of buying and spending, I have the pressure as a customer.”

In press materials, the Carnegie said artists in the show “are acknowledging the transitional state of our environment; the ecological, economic, and public-health consequences on the horizon …”

Other artists in the show include Allison Blair, Paper Buck, Seth Clark, Tara Fay, Christine Holtz; Stephanie Martin; Travis Mitzel, Njaimeh Njie, and Ginger Brooks Takahashi.

“Counterpressures” is organized by Hannah Turpin, the museum’s curatorial assistant for modern and contemporary art and photography.

Thursday’s opening reception includes a gallery talk. The event is free with registration.

The exhibit runs through July 12.