Sunday, November 29, 2015

Follow up to... Landfills and Dumps

Back in April 2015 (Saturday, 25 April, to be exact) I posted a series of pix of in-progress shame totems. Specifically, I wrote:

The Shame Totem

...As you may know, a totem is, often, a tall, vertical carved or painted family or clan representation or emblem with identifiable common/meaningful objects. A ‘shame totem’ is geared to elicit public embarrassment, usually for unpaid debts although Alaska Native carver Mike Webber of Cordova erected one to shame Exxon Mobil on the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill….
(More... read that post.)  
Here it is, almost exactly 6 months later and these totems are glazed, fired, and ready for public eyes.
Back then, (link to that post to see) I displayed the greenware version of one totem. Here it is glazed and fired. This is front and side view. Click on the image to enlarge.
ceramic sculpture, climate change art, susan galleymore ceramic sculpture, sculpture, ceramic arts
Title: Heedlessness Series 1. ( (c) Susan Galleymore.
This piece is one of three that will  be entered into an exhibit with the theme of Climate Change. Here is how I describe the piece (24" high x 15" wide x 15" deep):

Heedlessness Series, 1

Riffing from a line of Rumi's poetry -- "Heedlessness is a pillar that sustains our world, my friend" -- I researched the location and dispensation of our planet's largest landfills. 

These dot the planet and countries compete for title of World’s Largest Landfill; the current favorite is South Korea’s Sudokwon (a marvel of geometric engineering 30 km west of Seoul). 

Mexico City’s Bordo Poniente held the title until it closed in June 2012. In 34 years of operation more than 70m tons of waste were dumped here (56 feet deep in some places) and 1.5 million tons of methane were released per year.

In the U.S., the biggest landfills are in Shawnee, Kansas, followed by Puente Hills, near Los Angeles, and Apex, near Las Vegas.

This sculpture sits on a pedestal inscribed with the "Heedlessness..." line of Rumi's poetry. Two figures strain to hold up the pillar upon which the planet rests; a snake, a recurring motif in my work, coils around the pillar.
On the upper (northern?) hemisphere of the blue planet, "X" marks the spot on the continents that host the world’s largest landfills. The Pacific Garbage Patch (spelled out) raises awareness about the state of that ocean ...and all of our planet's polluted oceans, seas, and rivers.
On the lower (southern?) hemisphere, I present landfill names at different angles to signify the lack of coordination in addressing the reals requirement of a planet increasingly smothered by waste.
The mid-section (equator?) is a round-a-bout of endangered oceanic creatures: turtles, whales, salmon, puffins, penguins, albatross, and dolphins.
The sculpture’s head, the "thinking" core of our world, erupts out of turbulent waves that almost cover the woman. She wears a necklace of semi-precious beads around her neck with a fish skeleton pendant. She is crowned with a garbage barge with waste piled so high it spills over the sides. The barge, however, is also a lifeboat offering shelter to the segments of humanity that must migrate from their traditional homes due to the effects of climate change.
The barge/lifeboat is named "Lollipop" (as in the “Good Ship Lollipop”).

Size: 24” (h) x 15” (w) x 15” (deep)

The other pieces are:
ceramic sculpture, climate change art, susan galleymore ceramic sculpture, sculpture, ceramic arts,women's bodies as social message,
Title: Heedlessness Series 2. ( (c) Susan Galleymore.

Heedlessness Series, 2
Another take on the line of poetry by Rumi -- -- "Heedlessness is a pillar that sustains our world, my friend" – this sculpture  addresses an aspect of Woman/Women, in the age of climate change.
Here, the human body, like the planet, is under siege from the pressure of living the Western lifestyle. This includes pressure to consume beyond need to excessive "getting and spending” (‘we lay waste our powers” according to Wordsworth), and to keep up with the latest “in” thing.
Women must both turn to one another for sustenance and support and compete with one another for goods, services, and resources.
Meanwhile, the obvious -- the body/planet connection -- is overlooked, over-ruled, over-indulged, etched on, sketched on, and kvetched over.

Size: 27” (h) x 10” (w) x 15” (deep)

 Heedlessness Series, 3
ceramic sculpture, climate change art, susan galleymore ceramic sculpture, sculpture, ceramic arts,women's bodies as social message, heedlessness, heedlessness is a pillar that sustains our world, Rumi poetry on heedlessness,
Title: Heedlessness Series 3. ( (c) Susan Galleymore.

Heedlessness Series, 3 
My third take on the line from Rumi’s poetry -- "Heedlessness is a pillar that sustains our world, my friend" – considers migrants and migration in the age of climate change.
Rising sea levels will affect millions of people who live in coastal areas and will have to scramble for higher ground to survive, and millions more who will be displaced by the scramble.
This sculpture depicts a dominant figure trapped in water that rises to her thighs, and rising up and out of water.
Her right arm and shoulder are formed by three snakes, a white feather, and a small key. Her snakelike arm grips a walking stick, an object that guides, comforts, and offers security. The other snakes that curl and wind around the woman’s torso may stimulate a viewer’s ambivalent relationship to these wild creatures and to nature.
The white feather signifies the artist’s regard for the written word… and that words are key to the artist’s well-being.
The Woman’s left arm and shoulder are formed by a ladder upon which she supports a fleeing migrant…or an ambitious person. Thus, the ladder can represent a means of escape and social and political ambition (often the downfall to clear thinking about climate change). The ladder rests on, or rises from, the Hand of Fatima, an emblem of magical thinking as well as an object of beauty and safety (warding off the evil eye).
The migrant that clambers up the Woman’s thigh is, perhaps, someone who has not heeded the mounting evidence of climate change or is someone who lacks the resources to ensure her own safety.
The Woman’s headdress – a lifeboat surfing through waves – suggests the surfer can ignore inherent danger …or harness it as a temporary means of excitement and pleasure.
The many faces in this piece suggest that, for now, populations  may  continue to rely on magical thinking and 'business as usual' to deny an inevitable future.
Size: 40” (h) x 12” (w) x 11” (deep)

Friday, May 8, 2015

Marine, and other, mammals

Perhaps it was the presence of a friend that changed the dynamic on Limantour Beach. Perhaps it was his intense desire to experience Pt. Reyes National Shoreline again (American, he's lived in Geneva for 25 years). Perhaps, in a random universe, magical thinking has nothing to do with it...but, arriving at the south end of the beach, we saw humpback whales cavorting at the waveline just beyond the beach.
Magic happens.
There appeared to be at least 6 whales, 3 of whom were clustered together. Humpbacks have unusually long pectoral fins and knobbly heads and the reputation for breaching (jumping up and out of the water), spying (poking their heads and balleen above the surface of the water), and slapping the water with tails and pectorals. These whales did all of these, plus the whale-usual sounding.
Rather late in the season for whales migrating north, this was a wonderful and unexpected sight. Moreover, this was the only whale pod seen this day. It was glorious!
(Click to enlarge.) Limantour Beach in Drake's Bay. (Photo: S. Galleymore)
We continued walking south along the beach and, just beyond a freshwater outlet to the sea, we discovered a large, almost intact skeleton. It's tough for laypeople to identify a skeleton whose skull is missing...and with 15 pairs of ribs (most mammals have 13 pairs)...and very large cervical vertebrae. Three intelligent observers pondered: What could this have been? Deer? Maybe: one remaining body part looked almost like a broken horn...then we decided it was the dead critter's gullet. Or, are the remains those of a mountain lion? Hard to tell as the front legs and tibia of back legs appeared to be missing. Then, do mountain lions have such heavy-duty cervical vertebrae? Moreover, there was something un-mountain lion-like about the hips. Still pondering, we walked on.
A short distance away, we noticed what looked like drift wood but, on getting closer, we realized that it was a seal...a seal that, lying on very dry sand facing the cliffs, looked dead.
Of course, the skeleton belonged to a seal. Now it all made sense. (See Pinniped skeletons.)
We came within inches of this seal, thinking it had died very recently. Then, it made a feeble swot at the sand! It was alive....though just barely... and definitely ailing. 
This is not my beautiful life. How did I get here? One not-so-happy seal. (Photo: Andy Lichterman.)

I tried, unsuccessfully, to get a cell phone signal to call the Marine Mammal Center. Then, when my two companions, heavy hearted, elected to walk on, I turned back to find a place where phone service was restored and I could call.
I returned to the seal and told it, "Hold on,, fella, I'm off to get some help. Meanwhile, would you like a drink of water?"
The seal responded by turning to me and opening its mouth. I poured the rest of the fresh water from my bottle into its mouth. (The inside of this 4 or 5 foot long seal's mouth was pink and not too dry - a good sign, I thought.) Then, realizing seals probably prefer sea water over fresh, I dashed into the very cold surf (about 100 feet away) and filled the water bottle with sea water. The seal seemed to like this. I returned to the water's edge for more water and, on turning back to the animal, noticed that it had maneuvered itself around and was now facing toward Drake's Bay. Galvanized by the animal's apparent revitalization, I dashed to and from the surf and provided half a dozen more bottles of sea water, pouring each into its mouth, over its head, or over the upper half of its body.
Each time, the seal flopped a little closer to the water's edge.
Then, it reached the water.
At first, it seemed too weak to negotiate the waves...but, when the water was deep enough for the seal to work its flippers, it did just that ...and took off into the waves. I never saw it again.

I'm not sure but this animal seemed to be ailing (what wild seal allows human so close unless it is incapable of protesting or it is in physical trouble?) and I hope I didn't supply an easy meal to a foraging shark. Then, if the ill animal was easily hunted and eaten by a shark, at least the seal died in its natural environment...a natural part of the cycle of life and death.
Nevertheless, in case it shows up on a beach somewhere else, I called Marine Mammal Center and left the seal's tag number with the hotline: an orange tag and a blue tag, both #174.
Long live seals and other marine mammals.
(Read my 2010 article on events that increase the pressure on the marine environment and its inhabitants: "Dumping the Navy Way." Also read, "Stranded sea lion pups fall victim to California's 'ocean deserts' " I'm no Pinniped pro so I'm not sure if we interacted with a seal or a sea lion. Looked like a seal to fact, in hindsight it looked like a young, female, elephant seal.)

What ails the trees?

First thing anyone observant notices about Pt. Reyes in the spring of 2015 is that that the pine trees are ailing.
(Click to enlarge.) Pine trees in distress at Pt. Reyes due to pine pitch canker.  Distress is particularly noticeable in the treeline in the background...and, to some extend, in the pines, middle ground, right. (Photo: S. Galleymore.)
There is a serious drought in California, so serious that, in parts of northern California, wells have dried up and communities must have water trucked in for residents to survive. Naturally, drought was the first thing to which we ascribed the many hundreds of acres of visibly distressed pine trees throughout the park. Then, since the pines seemed more distressed than the other trees around them, and drought would be an equal opportunity stressor, we ascribed the problem to a pine tree virus.
After photographing several different areas along the road in Pt. Reyes and then along Coast Road at Limantour Beach, each showing evidence of severe distress in the pines, I researched possible causes. I found that a canker and not a virus is to blame.
"Pine pitch canker, a non-native plant pathogen, has recently been confirmed in bishop pine forests at Point Reyes National Seashore. ...This pathogen is a non-native fungus which was first identified in California during the mid-1980's. It is currently found throughout central coastal California, primarily on Monterey pine. Symptoms of pine pitch canker include the wilting of pine needles and branch tips, large amounts of resin or pitch on infected branches, and eventual die back of entire branches or trees. From a distance, infected areas of young bishop pine forest appear as patches of brown, dead or dying trees.There is no effective known treatment for trees infested with this disease. The Seashore is currently monitoring spread of the disease and working with the U.S. Forest Service to develop strategies for disease containment. Visitors should be careful not to move any plant material within or outside of the Seashore. " (Read the blog article.)

 Landlubber-centric thoughts

The incident with the skeleton on the beach surfaces an interesting phenomenon about the tendency of well-intentioned, intelligent people to think "inside the box". That is, to think within the realms of what is familiar rather than the larger context.
My friends and I discovered a large skeleton on a Pacific Ocean beach at the western edge of the United States. Given the limits of our ability to make assumptions about skeletons (none of us is trained in biology or similar science) we considered the creature may have been a ... deer, or a mountain lion. In other words, a land-based animal, a landlubber, like ourselves. Despite the evidence around us in the environment -- a beach, a beach strewn with shells, a pod of migrating whales -- none of us thought the creature might have been an ocean creature.
What does it mean about peoples' tendencies to project their particular, familiar contexts upon unfamiliar environments?
How might this play out in the world?
(By the way, each of us is or has been engaged in progressive issues for years -- cumulatively for more than one hundred years -- we are writers, thinkers, a lawyer, an international trade union official, etc. We pay attention to what's happening...and, as we gazed upon this dead creature, not one of us thought: "water creature.") 
Perhaps this explains a lot about the state of the world?

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Landfills and Dumps

I’m not a fan of the literal. That is, I avoid seeing, or looking at, anything too literally. And I try to avoid displaying anything too literally. I prefer my ‘truths’ laden with their innate complexities (most ‘truths’ are, after all, a complex meld of fact, fiction, and data, liberally sprinkled with opinion). 
Indeed, for someone NOT an academic, I can become annoyingly arcane before settling on a ‘truth’.
All this to say that, in an effort to portray, beyond the dimension of words, the reality of our planet strewn with trash, I wandered into a stark reality about landfills that I’m trying to portray in clay—neither obviously too literal nor too subtle.
First, tidbits about the world’s landfills: of the thousands and thousands of BIG landfills out there a few actually compete to be the known as The World’s Largest. Here’s a brief rundown of these: 


Asia has big dumps. South Korea’s Sudokwon (30 km west of Seoul) is the current favorite for World’s Largest Landfill. China has Guiya and Laogang in the south. The Philippines has Payatas, in Quezon City. India has Deonar in Mumbai and Ghazipur in New Delhi. Kyrgyzstan has Bishkek.


Africa offers Agbogbloshie, in Accra, Ghana; Olusosun, in Nigeria; Lagoon in South Sudan, and Dandora and Kibarani outside Nairobi, Kenya. 

United States

On the other side of the planet, in the United States, the biggest landfill is in Shawnee, Kansas, KS, followed by Puente Hills, CA, near Los Angeles, and Apex, NV, near Las Vegas. 

Central and South America

If it isn’t larger than Sudokwon, Mexico City’s Bordo Poniente runs a close second to Sudokwon for title of World’s Largest Landfill. Until it closed in June 2012, after 34 years of operation, Brazil’s Jardim Gramacho (English translation: Gramacho Garden) may have been the site of the World Largest Landfill. Brazil’s Estrutural, another huge, sprawling landfill may close down soon, too.
Nicaragua’s biggest landfill is La Chureco. Honduras’s world class landfill is called Tegucigalpa in the city of the same name; Boliva’s is K’ara K’ara and Peru’s, Haquira. 

Islands of Garbage

Now, think upon these small, crowded spaces…and that they must devote portions of their precious landmass to landfill: in Palestine, Gaza Strip’s landfill is Johr al-Deek (population density of Gaza Strip is is 4,661 persons/km2!) Rafah’s, Sofa. Haiti’s dump is named Truties. Dominican Republic’s is named Duquesa. East Timor’s dump, near Dili, is named Tibor and Indonesia’s dump, near Jakarta, is Bantar Gebang.
(Since this is a post about communicating beyond words via clay about our planet and its trash and not specifically about landfills, if you’re interested in knowing more about landfills link here to learn more and to see pix.)

The Shame Totem

The clay piece I am creating is a ‘shame totem’. As you may know, a totem is, often, a tall, vertical carved or painted family or clan representation or emblem with identifiable common/meaningful objects. A ‘shame totem’ is geared to elicit public embarrassment, usually for unpaid debts although Alaska Native carver Mike Webber of Cordova erected one to shame Exxon Mobil on the anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill…. Read more here:  Shame Pole Unveiled. (Pacific North West Native Americans don’t erect shame totems much anymore but Mike’s totem seemed to do the job he designed it for. When I first discovered it online, I found many references to, and pictures of, this work. Since then, online pictures of the totem seem to have disappeared—at least, it is tough, now, to find an online photo of this totem. Perhaps Mobil Exxon’s lawyers bullied Mike into submission and he agreed to stop publicizing the totem.)  
My piece—title not finalized yet—sits on a base for two more pieces. Currently in the leather hard phase, the piece is, unlike my other totems, only about 30 inches tall…think of it as more of a ‘shame bust’ than a ‘shame totem.’
This work is more literal than most of my clay work. (Perhaps this is why I’m writing about it: I’m talking myself through an unfamiliar amount of literalness….)
Take a look at the piece. Again, this is the leather hard phase…a very basic, raw phase. The pieces still have to dry out, then go through a bisque firing—a dangerous phase as I use recycled clay that is notorious for blowing up during the bisque firing phase if not properly dried out. After the bisque firing, the pieces are glazed/underglazed; then the pieces are glaze fired. There can be any number of glaze firings….

The base. I often use words and stories in my work. This piece has a line of poetry by Rumi, translated from Dari to read: "Heedlessness is a pillar that sustains our world, my friend." The piece shows two figures straining to prop up the central pillar, Heedlessness.

The globe sits upon the base. It shows an elementary map--including the Pacific garbage patch--and an equatorial "band" of endangered marine creatures. Below that, names of landfills.

The location for the headdress...

...a view of the headdress from the rear...

...and a view of the headdress from the front.... All these pieces will be bisque fired then glazed.