Hope is the thing with feathers
Rowena Koenig, Climate Emergency Fund – Development Director
During the isolation of the pandemic, a devoted dog and a small flock of rescued hens brought me solace and nurtured hope that better days would come. Animal companions oblivious to the dread of those uncertain times were comforting reminders that life goes on. Hope is the thing with feathers brings together four artists whose work uses imagery from the natural world to highlight the connection between all beings and evokes transcendence. Together, these works remind us of the web of life’s fragile equilibrium, and our unique power as humans to disrupt or preserve this balance.
Pentti Sammalahati’s charming photos capture animals going about their daily lives, seemingly unaffected by the photographer’s presence. Two black birds exude confidence and pluck as they stride a path in Houston, Texas, while Frog in Water – an amphibian odalisque – treats us to the bliss of bathing in an undisturbed pool. The emotional immediacy of images like these is moving testimony to the kinship between all species.
Michael Kenna’s approach to his avian subjects is more distant, but the resulting images are no less striking. Red Crown Crane Feeding, Tsuru, Hokkaido, Japan calls to mind Zen calligraphy, while Nine Birds, Izumo Taisha, Honshu, captures the movement of flight. Other selected works by Kenna explore edges where natural and built environments meet. Images like Huangshan Mountains, Study 29, Anhui, China celebrate places where human interventions in the landscape have been made with care, or even reverence. Torii Gate, Study 3, like the Shinto torii gate it depicts, is a portal to leave the mundane and enter the sacred.
Similarly, Jeffrey Conley’s singular compositions inspire devout awe at nature’s power. The epic scale of Ridgeline and Summit and Waters Edge underscores the truth of human frailty in the face of the elements. Snow Covered Reflections on the other hand, offers rest on the silent shore of a mountain lake. The transcendent beauty of all of Conley’s images elicits profound gratitude that we can call this wondrous planet home.
Selected animal images and landscapes by Sebastiao Salgado round out the collection. Marine Iguana and Fawn capture creatures in such perfect harmony with nature, the boundaries between these subjects and their environments almost disappear. These images are from Salgado’s long-term project GENESIS, and in their pristine beauty – now rare on our plundered planet – they forcefully evoke how far we have fallen from prelapsarian grace.
The stunning Iceberg Between the Paulet Island and South Shetland Island, Antarctica, which Salgado captured in 2005 now no longer exists due to global warming. The imbalance created in our ecosystems by reliance on fossil fuels has resulted in mountains of ice disappearing like morning dew – a terrifying truth. This reality, and the consequences that follow in a world where global warming goes unchecked, are foreshadowed in Salgado’s 1985 image with an ominous and heartbreaking title.This used to be the large Lake Faguibine. It dried up little by little with the drought and invasion of the desert. All the men have gone, only the children, the eldely and the women remain.
Yet even now, there is hope. Science demonstrates there is still a narrow window of opportunity to prevent the most dire consequences of global warming, but we must act now. We no longer have any time to lose. Climate Emergency Fund (CEF) supports bold activists who are demanding the rapid changes we need to avoid climate catastrophe, and will receive a portion of the sale price of every work in this special collection. CEF will strategically deploy these funds to grow the impact of the climate emergency movement. To learn more, donate, or get involved, please visit www.climateemergencyfund.org.
10% of all sales from this timed online exhibition will be donated to Climate Emergency Fund.
Exhibition curated by Rowena Koenig