Sunday, December 30, 2018

Halona Hilbertz: Humans, Insects, Fungi, and Other Strange Creatures (Artist Statement December 2018)

My art is always about empathy: Humans’ empathy toward other humans, but also humans’ empathy toward life forms that are different from us. Empathy lays bare the connection between creatures (and can even do so between breathing creatures and inanimate objects). In this all-encompassing connection I find Nature, and I find Spirituality; I see Life Itself. Others might call this greater overarching entity God. 

In the light of such thoughts, I often ponder humans’ role in this universe and on this earth. We all are biological individuals who want to survive as long as possible, even though we know our existence is a blip in time in the greater scheme of things. We can’t help ourselves. For the duration of each of our individual little lives, we are locked in our body and personality, and want to make the best of the time we have. 

But while doing this, we observe humanity as a whole threatening to destroy the very thing we all depend on: our planet. The planet can do without us; we can’t do without the planet. 

If we, and our children, want to be around a bit longer, as individuals and as a species, we must start seriously protecting the planet. We need to address other life forms that, along with us, make this planet what it is, in its incredibly complex balance of creatures that are probably more interwoven than we ever realize.  Empathy - our connection with other creatures and things - is a crucial tool in that way forward. 

As a human and as an artist, I explore these so-called “environmental” issues. One could also call them ”existential”. Climate change and the omnipresence of plastic have finally come to the surface of humans’ everyday consciousness. One big problem that hasn’t reached that mainstream stage yet is the dying-off of insects the world over, especially due to pesticides in our human food production systems. Many insect species haven’t even been discovered by humans yet, but here they are, threatened with extinction. Astute observers will by now have noticed the greater silence during hot summer nights, and the lack of smashed insect bodies on the wind shield on a long car drive.

Insects generally get a bad “rap”. They are not cute and furry; they look foreign to us; and yes, we humans consider some insects pests. Yet their huge variability, and the many functions insects serve - perhaps most notably the functions of pollination and of being a food source to other species - should give us pause. Our own food production depends on insects with their pollinating properties - and not just those “cutest” of insects, bees and butterflies. 

But beyond seeing merely their essential functions, I hope we can also see insects’ beauty. And so, some of my newest art pieces are “Insects”. These figures offer odd shapes and vaguely functional-looking parts made of metal, plastic, or animal parts such as crab claws or snail shells. They all have humanized heads, perhaps enabling the viewer to more easily imagine the rich inner world that insects, too, probably possess. How could they not? They fly. They sing. They are easily enraptured with light and wind and smells and colors. 

My “Fungi” also have human heads, but look a lot more like each other, paying homage to our understanding of fungal systems as life forms that have no central nervous system, but a different kind of de-centralized network. This network connects all its own wide-spread formations into something greater than the sum of its parts; it also communicates with trees and soil. 

Nature can rouse awe in us. We are always trying to understand how life, however we define it, came to be, and how its physical manifestations are constantly changing over time.  There is still unfettered mystery all around us, even as we humans think we are in control. I want to convey that mystery with my art. 

In the end, it all comes down to allowing empathy, love and beauty into our short lives, so we can make our time on this earth better, before we go back to the Great Unknown. Why shouldn’t we?

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Monthly Art: December 2018

Hope (wall object)
Fabric, rope, sea shell
8" high x 7 1/2" wide x 4 1/2"deep