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Shifting Landscape: Lynn Cazabon and Andrea Sherrill Evans

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Art AND: Joseph Hyde

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BmoreArt’s Picks: May 9-15

How do two artists who study the urban landscape approach ecology? Lynn Cazabon and Andrea Sherrill Evans’ work doesn’t have much in common formally. Cazabon, the Director of the Center for Innovation, Research, and Creativity in the Arts at UMBC, works primarily in photography and new media. Evans, faculty in MICA’s Drawing department, is a draftsperson working in traditional materials.

Conceptually, both artists explore nature through their practices and advocate for its protection. For these two transplants working in education—Evans hails from Tempe, Arizona, and Cazabon from Detroit—Baltimore’s landscape has become important to their work.

Since 2019, Evans has explored connections between her materials and subject matter, making inks and charcoals from foraged botanical sources. This process allows her to ponder the close relationship between observational drawing and the experience of gathering plants. Cazabon’s photographic practice involves site-specific installations, augmented reality, and public dialogues about the effects of climate change. Her focus is on the social exchange between viewers of her work.

In their first conversation, recounted in an edited form here, the artists quickly found common ground discussing their processes, gardening habits, and close observations of the effects of climate change on the natural world.

 

Lynn Cazabon, Uncultivated, poster for bus shelter, photograph and text, Bronx, NY, 2018
Andrea Evans, this soft world, Handmade mineral pigment watercolor, charcoal ink made from grapevine and fallen branches, black walnut ink, mulberry fruit ink, ink made from fallen leaves and Baltimore’s first snow of 2022, and sumac drupe ink on handmade abaca, kozo, and cotton papers
Lynn Cazabon, Uncultivated, poster for bus shelter, photograph and text, Bronx, NY, 2018, detail

Lynn Cazabon: My current project, Losing Winter at the MCHC, is a way to talk to people who are my political opposite, who might say climate change doesn’t exist or believe it’s happening for a different reason. The project is an archive of memories about winter; I use the season as a lens through which to view climate change impacts on weather patterns. It’s a way to engage with people about things that we can agree on—that winters are not the same as they were—and discuss the cultural and personal losses that come along with changes we’re just noticing.

The augmented-reality mobile application for the project forms a teardrop when the participant’s memory ends and the tear falls out of the bottom of the frame. It may be corny, but it’s acknowledging the mourning process, which I hope will lead to some action.

Andrea Sherrill Evans: One of the particularly impactful things about Losing Winter is the opportunity for people to share their memories and grapple with what has been lost. It feels like something that could change people’s mindset.

 

Flora: Amherst, VA #4 Handmade charcoal and goldenrod ink (made from fallen branches, grape vine, and goldenrod flowers foraged in Amherst, VA) on paper
Flora: Amherst, VA #1 Handmade charcoal and goldenrod ink (made from fallen branches, grape vine, and goldenrod flowers foraged in Amherst, VA) on paper
Lynn Cazabon, Uncultivated, poster for bus shelter, photograph and text, Bronx, NY, 2018
Lynn Cazabon, Uncultivated, poster for bus shelter, photograph and text, Bronx, NY, 2018, detail

LC: The first step of any kind of change is the personal level; I want to inspire conversations that bring older and younger people together. To create change for the environment, I realized I need to go through people.

With Portrait Garden, I was deliberately digging into the cliché of photographs of pretty flowers, and then not really creating those. When I’m photographing weeds, which are usually not considered beautiful, I’m going against the grain to create beautiful pictures. Plant blindness is a real thing—we ignore certain species because we want to. That idea of nature as being something that you “visit” is very problematic.

ASE: That is a tension I feel is present in your work, between the beauty and the so-called undesirable. I’m also pursuing that; there’s the possibility of my work being read as a beautiful drawing of a landscape. I look for ways to create attention in the work and invite someone to spend more time reflecting on things that might be overlooked.

LC: I think about anthropomorphism, which is usually considered a bad thing when we project ourselves onto animals or plants, but I’m all for it because I want humans to identify with the natural environment.

ASE: I read it as an attempt to blur the binary of the environment and humans, to see us in relationship with one another and influencing one another. It’s not a one-directional relationship but instead establishes that we are part of nature.

 

Lynn Cazabon, Uncultivated, site-specific exterior installation of 12 prints, Tsung-Yeh Art and Cultural Center, Tainan, Taiwan, 2019
Lynn Cazabon, Uncultivated, site-specific exterior installation of 12 prints, Tsung-Yeh Art and Cultural Center, Tainan, Taiwan, 2019, detail

LC: Breaking down that boundary interests me. I have an assignment where I ask students to ponder the relationship between indoors and out—the wild and the controlled. It’s an effort to get students considering other porous boundaries in their lives.

Because I am a gardener, I’m highly attuned to plants, mostly the weeds that are coming up in the garden that are edible or inedible. The things that I cultivate in my garden are pollinators, perennials, and native to the region. Being outside, working in the garden, is important to me as a person.

ASE: I can relate to the meditative quality of observing plants through their life cycles. I have a vegetable garden right now but I’m a bit of a hands-off gardener. There’s a ton to continue to learn as I keep exploring. I have hostas in my yard. When they start to die back this fall, I want to try turning them into paper. We have a damaged apple tree, so I’ve been making inks and some natural dye with the bark. I’m interested in building a relationship with the plant life around me and sharing that with other people.

Teaching can impact how students view the environment, too. It would be hard to teach if I didn’t feel that there’s a possibility to guide and mentor people to engage with the world. This fall I’m co-teaching a workshop and my section is focused on natural ink-making from botanical sources.

I’ve also been involved this year in a program to become a master naturalist through the University of Maryland Extension; I’ve been working at the host site of Lake Roland helping rejuvenate a pollinator garden. Learning which plants provide food and support for pollinators seasonally is fascinating.

 

Flora: Baltimore #6 Handmade charcoal and acorn cap ink (made from fallen branches, grape vine, and acorns foraged in Baltimore City) on paper
Flora: Baltimore #7 Handmade charcoal and acorn cap ink (made from fallen branches, grape vine, and acorns foraged in Baltimore City & County) on paper

LC: I am also pretty hands-off in my garden, which makes me think of permaculture. There are some things I must take action on, but I prefer going with the flow instead of trying to force things into a particular shape. My project Uncultivated is an examination of the dilemma of what do we cultivate and what do we not cultivate? That it is an arbitrary line.

I don’t like the word invasive because it shifts the blame to the plants, and they’re not the problem. I think a healthier attitude is to grow the things you want, and those will crowd out the things you don’t want instead of constantly pulling things and having bare stretches of land. Introduce the plants you do want, and they’ll take care of the landscape for you. What is native is also changing because the climate is changing.

ASE: My drawing series Invasive initially came out of moving to Baltimore in the height of summer in 2015 and seeing green on top of green. I recognized these were different plants, but I didn’t know what I was looking at until I began to research and learn about the prevalence of non-native plants in those disturbed areas right on the edge of the road. I tried to imagine what the landscape might look like without them, but also recognize them as very much a part of the environment as it is now.

It’s a complex thing. Certain introduced plants threaten the balance of native ecosystems, but with the changing climate, these species may be what can survive here now. I think about how farmers were paid to plant kudzu [in the 1940s] to prevent erosion… What’s the equivalent thing that we’re doing today?

LC: Over time, my work has become more ephemeral. What art is to me, the core of it, is social exchange. With Portrait Garden, getting women who were incarcerated to engage with the natural environment highlighted how working with plants can be healing. Engaging the community in which the work is being shown is important to me to extend its functionality. I want to have an impact on the world in a genuine way, so often I’m creating work in the public realm.

ASE: The environment shapes your life, especially in childhood, but always. Growing up in Arizona, I spent a lot of time outdoors. It took me a long time to appreciate the beauty and life in the desert. Now I really love it; it’s amazing how much can survive in extreme temperatures with such little water. My graduate thesis was about remembering the landscape of the desert, but I haven’t worked with it directly since. Having lived in Boston, and now in Baltimore for the last seven years, all these different environments continue to influence me.

Lynn Cazabon, Uncultivated, site-specific mural print for lobby of WRO Art Center, Wroclaw, Poland, 2016
Lynn Cazabon, Ecomimesis, virtual reality environment, 2018
Andrea Evans Foraging Wild Grapes
Andrea Evans, Flora: Baltimore #6 Handmade charcoal and acorn cap ink (made from fallen branches, grape vine, and acorns foraged in Baltimore City) on paper

Artwork provided by the artists

This story is from Issue 14: Environment, available here.

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