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Lesson Plans


art & ecology (from Ron Hirschi)

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kate (gresham.10)
Wed, 5 Nov 1997 22:07:25 -0500

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I went fishing tonight and was thinking down there, thinking about
something that was said about ecological art meant to be a part of a
habitat.
Sea lions were swimming past. A couple of harbor seals poked their
heads up in the shallows of this corner of the Straits of Juan de Fuca.
Calm. A good sized salmon hit pretty hard. Another sea lion swam past,
quite a ways offshore - it looked like a diving humpbacked whale the way it
arched its back before diving.
Anyway, this scene before me was pretty much as it always has been. I
don't think any form of artwork on it, in it, would be a good deal. So, why
then in other environments?
I remember too something that Lynne Hull told me about my friend,
artist Tom Jay - she said that she felt that his art was really his stream
work with salmon. Tom also does sculptures. He is involved in salmon
restoration here in my neighborhood on the Olympic Peninsula. Like others,
he gets involved in the biology of streams.
Another friend of mine has been working on a big project. I'm working
with him on the Dungeness River - Mike has been hiring loggers to put in
place enormous structures of tree trunk and pilings in the river. They are
meant to replace the old wood that used to get into the river when big
trees died, fell into the water, and became one with the Dungeness.
I look at those tangles of tree trunks put in place by out of work
timbermen - cables anchor logs to the bank and pilings hold the mess
together. Not a pretty site. But, last week, I spent some time in the small
black eddies around one such ugly monstrosity. Tiny coho salmon were
already using the days old habitat, just as they would have if "nature" had
put the trees in place. Who really cares if the stuff looks like a delicate
design? Would it matter if we asked some local artists to help make these
stream habitats look more appealing to people or is it enough that they do
their work for the river, for the fish?
A related question - out here in my near ocean waterway, is there
something I am missing? Could we find a way to place artworks on the sea?
Say, somehow to call attention to the overfishing of salmon, bluefin tuna,
marlin, mahi mahi, sharks, lobster, and other sea creatures? Is there a way
to paint a big enough design over the sea to call attention to the plight
of toxic laden waters?
Even a small issue - is there a better way to present information to
fishermen like me? Where I fish, here in the waters where more than 175
stocks of salmon are in danger of extinction, there is not a single piece
of art let alone information, helping me to figure out this complex
problem. This, I think, is also true along the Great Lakes, where eating a
fish can often mean a high risk of cancer for the consumer. It is true in
Florida where depleted fish populations and pollution problems are
affecting many species and humans. It is true on most waters. On water, in
water, about water, we seem unable to play an effective role as artists and
as ecologists. Any ideas or good examples out there of effective art
related to this kind of thing?

Ron Hirschi


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