By: Lauren Brady – Communications Intern
Environmental issues are sometimes beyond our realm of understanding and seem quite difficult to grasp. Even though we may not be able to quite understand what is going on with the climate of the earth, we are able to see the physical changes taking place on our planet without realization.
Charles Beneke, professor and printmaking area coordinator at the University of Akron’s Mary Schiller Myers School of Art, was able to use art to portray his feelings and understanding of global warming and climate change. One of his installations of a series addressing the changes our planet is going through is named Specter, and is featured downtown at the Akron Art Museum.
The installation features wallpaper that was hand-printed by Beneke and flows into a monstrous three-dimensional cloud of smoke and smog that engulfs the gallery much like the greenhouse gasses being emitted into our environment. In his artist talk on Sunday, September 13, Beneke revealed much of his inspiration for the piece, and explained that the direction the billowing smoke element travels is based on the prevailing winds of Northeast Ohio.
The screen-printed wallpaper features trees which turn into smokestacks and then oil derricks which eventually become the giant cyclone of cloudy, grey smoke dominating much of the gallery. Along with screen-printing, Specter, also includes other print-making techniques such as laser-cutting, mono-printing, and relief-printing.
Beneke also included an interactive element to the gallery. “Trade Your Carbon for Art” allows patrons to take a printed form with them if they share their own ideas and goals for decreasing their carbon footprint.
Beneke received a grant which allowed him to travel to Greenland and see the effects of global warming firsthand. He was able to channel this experience and many others to inspire the creation of Specter. It’s not only a piece that will leave you awe-struck by its extraordinary detail and multi-dimensional elements, but it will also leave you with an important message, and hopefully inspire you to modify your lifestyle for the sake of our planet and the climate.
Stop by the Akron Art Museum through January 3rd, 2016 to see this inspiring installation in the Judith Bear Isroff Gallery. For those that don’t know, Keep Akron Beautiful is proud to call Judith Bear Isroff their first executive director!
Keep updated with the artist’s online journal, featured on his website, to increase your understanding of why his work, and these issues are so important to him.