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Art and the Environment: An Artist Panel Discussion

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Art and the Environment: An Artist Panel Discussion

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Tuesday, May 3
10:00 a.m.–noon
Virtual Friends Lecture and Docent Guest Lecture
Speakers: Fernando Casasempere, ceramic artist; Anya Gallaccio, artist and professor, Department of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego; Rebeca Méndez, artist, designer, and Chair of the UCLA Design Media Arts department; and John Mireles, photographic artist
Moderator: MacKenzie Elmer, environment reporter for Voice of San Diego


Each artist will share how their artistic practice and work speaks to issues around land, the environment, climate change, and waste.

Unified in their innovative and exploratory use of materials and subjects, artists Fernando Casasempere, Anya Gallaccio, Rebeca Méndez, and John Mireles will gather to discuss their individual practices creating works that invite us to explore our relationship with nature and the earth. While employing different media, these artists reveal the powerful human presence and influence that remains in the objects, landscapes, and environments we inhabit. The conversation will be moderated by Voice of San Diego’s Environment Reporter, MacKenzie Elmer.


Free for SDMA docents and members at the Friend level and above | $5 suggested donation for all others

Reserve your spot by clicking on this link. All participants will be sent the Zoom link and instructions via email once registration is complete.


Artist Panelists:

Fernando Casasempere’s ceramic forms are often inspired by the effects of machines and mass production on the environment and modern society, including a monumental field of ceramic and steel flowers in the courtyard of Somerset House, called Out of Sync, which has now been installed in the Atacama Desert of his native Chile. Casasempere’s ceramics are produced using waste from mining and drilling to create vibrant colors and, as in pre-Columbian art, his works are unglazed. He currently lives and works in London, having brought twelve tons of his own clay mixtures from Chile with him. An exhibition of his work, titled TERRA: Fernando Casasempere will be on view beginning April 29, 2022, at The San Diego Museum of Art.

Anya Gallaccio creates site-specific, minimalist installations and often works with organic material such as flowers, fruit, plants, sand, stones, and ice. Gallaccio’s practice engages us with the dualities of nature and transience versus the fixed and creates a tension between what we believe is beautiful and benign, and its far more complex existence. Her natural material choice results in real-time processes of transformation and decay, exploring ideas around memory and the presence of something that is no longer there. Gallaccio was born in Paisley, Scotland, and she is a professor in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego.

Rebeca Méndez works with various resources and technologies to invoke new balances between the artificial and the natural, between humans and nature. Méndez is an artist, designer, and Chair of the UCLA Design Media Arts department, where she is director of the CounterForce Lab, a research and fieldwork studio dedicated to using art and design to develop creative collaborations, research, and projects around the social and ecological impacts of climate change. Méndez’s interests and initiatives are a bridge between art, design, and science, and demonstrate a commitment to a sustainable future.

John Mireles works in the medium of photography, often inviting the public to participate in additional meaning-making through the hands-on destruction of his artwork. In 2019 he traveled to photograph areas in the United States that had previously been protected but were since opened to drilling and mining, and exhibited these photographs at The San Diego Museum of Art in 2021 as Disestablishment: John Raymond Mireles. In order to create a visceral understanding of the potential for damage that awaits these environments, after one month of exhibition, members of the public were then invited to hammer on, cut away, stomp on, tear, and mark up the prints. After the works had been damaged, they were reconstructed and re-hung for continued exhibition. These images and actions pose the question, “If we are hesitant to damage these prints, why are we okay with allowing the actual environment to be destroyed by commercial exploitation?”



MacKenzie Elmer is an environment and energy reporter at Voice of San Diego, a non-profit investigative journalism newsroom. She obtained a master’s in climate science and policy at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, where she explored the impact of lithium extraction on indigenous Chilean communities driven by market and political demand for renewable energy in California. She began her journalism career in Iowa after completing a journalism and Spanish bachelors at University of Iowa and covered everything from politics to crime at newsrooms like The Des Moines Register and the Associated Press.


Reserve My Spot


May 3, 2022
10:00 am - 12:00 pm
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