Vince Packard does more than make great art.
His storybook like paintings weave fantasy with real life events and interesting facts as a way to keep pressing environmental issues in public conversation.
As head curator for this 10th Annual Environmental Art Show at the North Water Street Gallery, Packard chose to focus on the nuclear meltdown at Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant in March of last year with a show entitled "Fukushima Anniversary."
Packard sees this disaster as a grim punctuation on a wave of intense environmental destruction that has “gotten exponentially worse” in the last decade. As a former resident of Huntington, WV, he has seen the river by his home destroyed by mountain-top removal mining. Add that to the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill and it's easy to see how the damage is piling up.
Packard is surprised and dismayed at the media's apparent lack of concern for the lasting effects of our environmental disasters and the lack of coverage about how we can prevent it from happening again. To combat this, he uses found objects and his expert hand to create paintings layered with fact, myth and an environmental message.
In "Кассандра/ Пандора!" or "Cassandra/Pandora," Packard uses a set of old cabinet doors to paint a kind of diptych with two women in Greek mythology, Cassandra and Pandora.
On one door, Cassandra, a woman granted the gift of prophecy but who no one believes, symbolizes the continual signs Mother Earth gives us to pay attention and protect her. But we just aren't waking up to smell the coffee.
On the other door, Pandora, who curiously opened her box, irreversibly let every kind of evil out into the world and was able to close the box when only hope remained. This portrait is interesting because Packard encircled Pandora's head with a Ferris wheel halo. This particular wheel is from an amusement park in the Chernobyl disaster zone of exclusion.
In Ukraine, a Ferris wheel is called "the devil's wheel," which makes the ideas in this portrait fall into place quite nicely.
Ultimately, Packard hopes that this show can be a way to inspire others to speak out against environmental destruction, such as groups protesting the Davis-Bessie Nuclear Power Station in Oak Harbor, OH, or the Vermont Yankee Power Plant in Vernon, VT. Packard acknowledges that, especially now, "protests don't change anything. But they give us something to build on."
He believes that as mature people we need to be responsible for our environment and each other. “I've got to sleep at night,” Packard said.
Packard certainly isn't alone in making art to keep these important ideas on our social radar. In addition to the show at the North Water Street Gallery, Packard has created a Facebook page called Earth Art/ Fukushima 3/11 dedicated to art activism and the dangers of nuclear power.
Trey Berry and others from the Facebook art group will also show work in the gallery.
In keeping with annual tradition, Jim Vandenboom will present this year's “Project: From the Tree” that will feature a tree sculpture as well as poems written by local school children in collaboration with The Wick Poetry Center of Kent State University.
This show runs March 31 through May 5 at 257 N. Water Street in downtown Kent. The opening reception is 7-10 p.m. Saturday, Mar. 31.
There will be a live reading of the poems "From the Tree" on Apr. 28 during Kent's annual “Who's Your Mama?” Festival.