Tuesday, April 17, 2012

"Together, We Can"

Oil Drum Art is a not-for-profit art movement trying to change human patterns through art. A 55-gallon oil drum is used as a metaphor for oil. Artists transform these drums into artworks that make a statement on global issues.
Every year a group of Artist bring together a collective of social or political or environmental commentaries to provide a forum for discussion with a hope to make a difference. This show is about bringing home the idea that 'Art' is something that has a place wherever it is seen not just as a thing of beauty but an idea with a power to make change!

This year I decided to be part of this collective and use the metaphor of the drum to make a statement about not just petroleum but about the general environmental responsibility of the Human Race. We pride ourselves to be the most intelligent animal on this planet, hence a race with the maximum burden of ownership.

Forget saving the planet, what we need to save is ourselves. The planet has survived millions of years, but every time it has tried to restore balance the destruction has wiped out entire species.

Are we next?

May be if we let borders divide us, differences separate us, greed rule us and selfishness dictate us.

My message is simple: let's forget where we come from, let's just focus on who we are and how we can. Let's join hands to save the Humans!

Because I strongly believe "Together, We Can".

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. Dear Joy,
    First of all CONGRATS! I've been lucky enough to see the oil drum in progress and have enjoyed every step.

    I found that your argument was refreshingly idealistic and this, at times, is what we are lacking. We tend to focus on the downside, the glass half empty, the threat of y2k, 2012, global warming but you pointed out that what we have is ourselves RIGHT NOW and that perhaps the bigger problems can be dealt with one at a time.

    I find, though, that explorations regarding environmentalism (as an artist) can be a bit contrived...we work with materials that are difficult to recycle and meant to last for centuries: acrylics, oil paints, plastic bubble wrap, packaging, inks, solvents and even synthetic brushes are all man-made and probably made mostly of petroleum. I haven't worked it out in my head yet and welcome the discussion at your opening next week. I look forward to seeing the artists' views and interpretations.

    Aesthetically, I am enjoying the fact that these modern symbols of corruption and corporate greed are being transformed with color and composition. A new life of hope from one of despair.


  2. Thank you Millie! I guess the optimist in me has always seen the glass half full :)

    A very good point about artists, art materials and our drive to be immortal through our work. Here's my two cents on it. Art was originally (pre-historic times) intended to be way of expression, telling a visual story. And it was very Eco-friendly. Natural pigment, brushes made of twigs, stones etc..,. Art as it stands today with our fancy materials, packaging Etc is a product of modern day commercial greed (branding) and an artists selfish motive to be immortal as an individual. "Me" greater than all others.
    But I still feel that as a mixed media artist I see beauty in what people call trash and embrace and bring them together to make something aesthetically appealing. Re-cycling in my own artsy way. Or may be I am just kidding myself :)

  3. Also Millie, in my years when I worked with folk artists I learnt that they paint because they want to, not because they want to be immortal. They use natural pigments for the pure lack of access to the more sophisticated and expensive materials. So I wonder is all this just a product of excess? Have we really progressed or just paved the path to our own destruction?

    Thanks Ratna :)

    1. I like oil paint, I guess that says it all yuk yuk :-) As for art in general.......the message, the emotion, the impact, whatever is more important than the medium. The material medium is but a channel the artist uses to convey and create. The boundaries are limitless to a point. Modern materials are just an evolution of the creative process striving to improve, enhance and project color or texture. The physical properties of the art can be anything new or old, traditional or avant garde.

    2. True Ted!
      But that's kind off the point.... As Artists sometimes we are so lost in our own creative process that we loose track of the big picture and our role in it.

  4. Actually, I'm not so much concerned about an individual's need or drive to create and when I create my work, I am inspired by my life as much as by the materials I use (may they be recycled, new or just new to me). I guess my question lies with the idea of trying to translate or make a point regarding our ecosystem and its preservation or conservancy when we use materials that are not eco-friendly. It's like the vegetarian that wears leather boots, the animal lover that has a fur stole or the conservationist that drives a hummer. I actually enjoy the irony of it all because we are not human if we are not contrarians. Right?

    Regarding the immortality of the artist...maybe it is ego...maybe it is trying to find our place among the many and our purpose in this short life. We think that by leaving a permanent mark that nobody will forget us. But I remind myself constantly of the obituary I read that spoke only of the deceased as a great artist but not of the life that was lead. I would much rather be known as a beloved daughter, a good friend, a good wife, a loving mother then a great artist. Do I love the idea that some of the pieces I create will be treasured by somebody long after my death? Of course! But I am also fearful that they may end up in someone's basement or yard sale or at the bottom of the dust bin. Such contradiction for sure!

    1. Beautiful Millie.

    2. I think that's one of the question this show tries to answer. That art need not be a framed piece of work hanging in a gallery. It could be something like an Oil Drum, just lying there in a street corner. A work which raises questions, brings out ideas, stimulates discussions.
      And I can now safely say "Mission Accomplished.

      It's not a perfect world, and we are not perfect citizens of this world. So it's okay to have contradictions. My point is: if all of decide to make really really minute changes (May be drop in the ocean).... But these minute drops can build its own ocean!

      And I agree even I want to be remembered as So much more than just an artist.

  5. Sweet drum and conversation!

    Art is reflective of the consciousness of its time. So it makes sense we are having these conversations with our artwork and between artists. Humanity is at at critical point in our evolution, where we can consciously choose between greed or well being. What will it be, ultimately? I know what I'm choosing.

    Thanks for inviting the conversation, Joy.

    1. Not to seem a pessimist as I am not but there has always been greed. There is nothing any more critical now than say in the past escaping Gengis Kahn, the Nazis, the communist purges in Russia and China to name a few. History is full of it. There are just more people on the planet, communication is instant now so the pressure seems greater but only to us at this point in time. I'm sure many in the past would take issue that the present is more critical.

    2. Ted... And that's why we have History Books! So that we learn and not make the same mistakes again. Isn't evolution all about that?

  6. Great conversation you have started here Joy. I do believe that as artists we tend to be the most sensitive, susceptible people in the planet, as we perceive things differently than most. That’s why we’re capable of, not only portray beauty but also the deepest feelings, and this is good. Through our visual statements we can send a message to the viewer, as Joyita did with her wonderful piece, “Together, We Can”

    Okay, many times we, artists, use materials that are not so environmentally friendly, but in a way, we are preserving history through our works… However, mixed media artists do recycle their stuff. Don’t we? We can make art out of some else’s garbage… or OIL DRUM for that matter!!!

    Now, if you want to paint in a more environmental approach, learn to paint with encaustic. You only need pure and natural beeswax (you can even raise your own bees in your backyard and help the planet that way), Damar resin (tree sap from an oriental pine tree), and pigments… and did I tell you that you that can only use natural bristle brushes? …Well ok, we use electricity, but you can use other ways/sources of heat, even the sun for that matter. All I want to say is that, yes, “Together, We Can” make the change if we want to.

    1. Very well put Corina!
      As an artist I have always experimented ways in which I can be environmentally responsible.
      I have repurposed canvases, used repurposed wood, that's the biggest reason why I loved Encaustic and my more recent experimentation with paper making.
      And Corina we both know that we can use more than heat Gun... How about setting the whole thing on fire :P
      Its not like I am the first one to do all this. Others also have (Like Lee Krasner) may be their reasoning was more financial. Hence coming back to my original point... May be all this is a product of excess!

  7. Joyita,

    I enjoyed reading both your post and the comments that follow. Using the oil drum is such a great concrete way of putting the message across, an old twist on Marshall McLuhan's "the medium is the message."

    I've spent a lot of time thinking about use of materials the way that affect the environment. I've increasingly moved into watercolors, but am still very fond of matte medium and am looking for another less harmful fixative. Kudos to you for bring this issue to our attention!

  8. Thank you Hannah! It's really a catch 22. One one hand we have responsibility towards the environment... On the other it's towards our collectors.

    I am not saying choosing oil/acrylic is wrong it's how we use it. Are we then just pouring the waste down the drain? Washing our brushes under the tap? Or doing the more painful process of washing brushes with alcohol, letting it dry, scrapping the paint and discarding them with care? I think finally it just boils down to that.
    Our environmental responsibility is not about what we use on the canvas (because I sure as hell hope that mine never ends in a land fill decaying), it's about what we do with the waste.


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