Ecological upheaval centerpiece of Mesa College art exhibition


With deadly earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, and tornadoes ripping across the global landscape, the reality of ecological upheaval seems ever present. In California, such transitions are felt acutely with severe drought, decimating forest fires, and mudslides.

In a significant move to educate San Diego students and the community at large, Mesa College is presenting their interactive exhibition, Endangered: Exploring California’s Changing Ecosystems. The show features eight artists who were selected for their perseverance and commitment to the environment and who examine via their own processes the changes in the local ecosystem.

Artists include Stephanie Bedwell, Kira Carillo Corser, Michael Field, Stacie Birky Greene, Sasha Koozel Reibstein, Jim Riley, Jen Trute and Ruth Wallen.

According to Bedwell, she realized the environmental impact on food production when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Already exploring the symbolism of bees in her art, she honed in on pesticides and Colony Collapse Disorder, which ultimately led to her piece in the show, Get Woke. The gargantuan bee, perched above a sleeping human contemplates if the human will awaken.

She commented about her vision, “As I continue to explore my own version of environmental activism through art, I contemplate these questions: Why do we continue to allow a society to value profit over people? How do we shift ‘me’ based thinking to ‘we’ based thinking, and how can the simple act of mindfulness lessen the habit of addictively seeking happiness through consumption?”

Birky Greene created a series of captivating drawings of each of the endangered birds in California, while Koozel Reibstein contributed her always fascinating, form-challenging, oozy sculptures of porcelain and mixed media.

Each artist in the show presents his/her own vision of environmental issues such as pollution, climate change, habitat disruption and degradation, and land development with an artistic collective force.

On the educational side, the exhibition also features a lineup of photographs from Mesa College biology students capturing a range of plants and animals, including those endangered, threatened, invasive and native. Many may be surprised to learn that some of the species so common and well known in San Diego exist in these various categories, and may actually be harmful to the local ecosystem.

Daniella Susalla Deery, the curator of the exhibition commented, “Recent policy changes coupled with an undeniable shift in climate are a constant reminder that we need to be active participants in securing the sustainability of our planet. With this exhibition we hope to provide viewers with information about their regional ecosystems empowering them to make positive decisions.”

To that end, the interactive portion of the exhibit encourages visitors to pledge their commitment to bettering the environment and to write down how they plan to facilitate change in their lives and post on a community wall. The wall itself displays a wide range of ideas and inspiration, and ultimately encourages contemplation for any visitor willing to spend a few moments to share in a collective moment of reflection.

The free exhibit is open to all ages and runs through Sept. 28.

San Diego Mesa College: Art Gallery, 7250 Mesa College Dr., San Diego