Artist Alexis Rockman talks about the intersection of art, science and human impact

Spheres of Influence by Alexis Rockman. Photo by Dorothy Spears

In one of Alexis Rockman’s paintings, a kracken-like creature emerges from the depths to destroy a factory on land. In another, a futuristic scene depicts a decaying civilization, a sunken bridge in the distance, and a seal peering into polluted green waters. Through his varied collections, which range from apocolyptic to anthropological, Rockman constructs naturalistic scenes as well as lost worlds, cryptic warnings of imminent change, through brightly colored paintings that represent sometimes surprising scenes. .

This weekend, Maui art lovers will have the chance to spend the evening with the artist and naturalist. Saturday, October 27 at 7 p.m., Rockman will perform in The Green Room at the McCoy Studio Theater at Maui Arts and Cultural Center. The prolific artist, who has exhibited in museums across the country and consulted on the film Pi’s life, lives and works in New York City and has been invited to Maui by the Merwin Conservancy for its ongoing Green Room Salon series. After his presentation, there will be a reception with a book signing, book fair and refreshments.

Rockman’s art, which portrays “a natural history psychedelia”, is painfully alive and timely. I met Rockman on his way to Maui, Ohio, at the Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art where he was opening his “Great Lake Cycle” exhibit. We talked about his presentation at MACC, the human problem, and his love of isolated ecosystems.

Upper Peninsula by Alexis Rockman. Photo by Dorothy Spears

Rockman is a world traveler who is influenced by scientists, historians, anthropologists, and environmentalists throughout his travels to places like Tasmania, Antarctica, and Madagascar. The islands are of particular interest to him. “I love the way each island has its own biodiversity and its own history, since it is isolated from the rest of the world. Things have evolved there that are quite unique. Hawai’i… is one of the great examples of biodiversity. I’m fascinated by the history of Hawai’i from an ecological point of view, and one of the things I’m going to talk about is several pieces of art that relate to Hawai’i but also how which I approach other parts of the world such as Tasmania, Madagascar and Long Island.

Alexis’ art, which includes field drawings as well as prehistoric and post-human landscapes, works at the intersection of art and science. “I think it’s very difficult to talk about ecology at this point in history without considering that humans are kind of a problem, and not necessarily a positive effect on this planet,” Rockman said. , when I asked him about some of the darker themes in his work. “There aren’t many places in our culture that are ready to really face the consequences of this. One of my responsibilities as an artist, because I am able to say pretty much what I like and am not challenged by corporate or institutional powers, I am able to put things in my painting and to have a public speech which not a lot of people to do.

Bison by Alexis Rockman. Photo by Dorothy Spears

Rockman arrived at this ideology through the evolution of his career. “The more I learned about the history of ecology, the more I became aware of the human place in it, and some of the darker and unspoken threats that were fascinating. In addition, I very much abhor secrets and denial of facts, and we are increasingly confronted with this with our current administration. I think it’s more and more my job to highlight some of the things that are problematic in terms of biodiversity degradation.

Rockman looks forward to discussing these issues during his visit to The Green Room, where he will showcase selected works and highlight his commitment to ecological change. At the heart of what he tries to do is tackle complex and trying subjects through his medium: “I try to encourage people to appreciate all the biodiversity that surrounds them. “

Alexis Rockman in the Green Room

Maui Arts and Culture Center

1 Cameron Road, Kahului

Saturday October 27. 7 p.m.

$ 25; $ 10 / Students (with ID)

Photos of Dorothy Spears



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