In the winter of 1969, Santa Barbara’s coastal ecosystem was blitzed by three million gallons of crude oil. Responding to the catastrophic spill, and the ongoing assault of ecosystems throughout the United States, Senator Gaylord Nelson called upon American youth to rally for the environment as strenuously as they’d protested the Vietnam War.
The response was galvanizing. An estimated twenty million people attended Earth Day events in 1970. At least one of them found a novel use for military surplus, fortuitously captured in an iconic AP photograph: A college sophomore named Peter Hallerman sniffed a magnolia flower while wearing a gas mask.
The gas mask became a symbol of the environmental movement, and a frequent motif in environmental posters. Several examples are currently on view at Poster House in New York City, included in We Tried to Warn You, a major exhibition of environmentally oriented graphic art from the 1970s through the present.
Often innovative in their design and occasionally appealing as art, the posters are most significant for what they failed to achieve, as indicated by the exhibition title’s lament. Environmental conditions are far worse today than they were when Gaylord Nelson gave voice to environmentalism. We Tried to Warn You offers a rare chance to assess the shortcomings of agitprop from the past and to work out a more effective strategy to put Earth first in the present.
The gas mask motif can be found on posters as far back as 1971. Like the student sniffing a magnolia, the artists are unabashedly ironic. For instance, an anonymous 1971 headshop poster depicts Porky Pig in front of a toxic cloud, arms outstretched, the words “That’s all folks” inscribed above his head. More than two decades later, in 1995, the cartoonist Seymour Chwast portrayed a man shaving with a gas mask on his face.
As the Porky Pig poster demonstrates, irony is often deployed with the satirical force of appropriation. In recent years, Winston Tseng has become a masters of the form, especially with his repurposing of familiar characters and scenes from Sesame Street. The Poster House exhibition includes a work in which the Count is shown leading a child in a “Countdown to Mass Extinction”. Like most of Tseng’s graphic satires, this one is unauthorized, as is his placement of the poster in New York bus shelters.
Tseng’s posters are witty, as are the Chwast and Porky Pig graphics. The question is whether their sarcasm is rhetorically convincing, or whether it alienates those who need most urgently to be persuaded.
Other artists are more direct in their messaging. Long before the first Earth Day, the Swiss graphic artist Hans Erni communicated the threat of pollution using one of the oldest warnings of
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This as-told-to essay is based on a conversation with Kate Boardman, a 36-year-old former teacher and current content creator from Massachusetts who has lived abroad for the past 12 years in countries including Vietnam, Australia, Guatemala, and Bahrain. The following has been edited for length and clarity.
The Hawaii-born artist Toshiko Takaezu was known for her ceramic works that redefined the genre with their “closed forms,” as she called them — sealed vessels whose hidden interior spaces were meant to activate the imagination. Next month, Takaezu’s life and work will be the focus of a major retrospective at the Noguchi Museum in Long Island City, Queens. “Toshiko Takaezu: Worlds Within” will present over 150 pieces from private and public collections around the country, co-curated by the art historian Glenn Adamson, the museum curator Kate Wiener and the composer and sound artist Leilehua Lanzilotti. (A 368-page monograph, published in collaboration with Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition.) Visitors will be able to see a collection that spans seven decades of Takaezu’s career, from her early student work in Hawaii in the 1940s to immersive, monumental ceramic forms she produced in the late 1990s to early 2000s. “Takaezu was also a weaver and painter, and often constructed multimedia installations where her ceramics, textiles and paintings operated together,” says Wiener. To play off this idea, the curators organized the show chronologically, incorporating each of these media into various sections, inspired by Takaezu’s own installations. Sound will also play a role. In her ceramic pieces, Takaezu would often place a dried fragment of clay within her closed form vessels, creating a musical rattle. For this exhibit, Lanzilotti (a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in music) has developed a series of videos offering insight into the sonic elements of Takaezu’s work — and visitors can hear those rattles firsthand via an interactive display. .
Even as we travel around the globe, it’s easy to forget that our planet is part of a much larger celestial dance. Sure, we mark the orbit of the Earth around the Sun each year, but nothing reminds us that we are part of something much bigger than the experience of watching the Moon slide in front of the Sun during a solar eclipse.
In the autumn of 1897, after gold was discovered in the Klondike, my English great-grandfather rode out from a cattle ranch near Edmonton, Alberta, to make his fortune. It was late in the season. He traveled with three Americans, eight pack ponies, a Winchester rifle, a tin billycan for tea, a Dutch oven for making bread, a goatskin coat, and a few light mining implements. But the snowfall was heavier than expected, which made the ground treacherous for the horses. When his companions decided to sit out the winter with some fur trapping, my great-grandfather sold his share of the ponies for sled dogs and hired an Indigenous tracker instead. His pace picked up, but the weather deteriorated. When supplies got dangerously low, he suggested to his tracker that they eat the dogs. Eventually, he was forced to return to England empty-handed. His diary, however, survived.
The quest for a better quality of life influences many Americans’ decisions on where to live, work, play and travel. U.S. News and World Report has just released its ranking of the top 25 U.S. cities that offer the highest quality of life.
Moving abroad can be exhausting, but I've done it multiple times, leaving my native island of St. Lucia for college in the US almost 15 years ago. Since then, I've lived in places like Wales, the Czech Republic, Spain, Italy, and Greece.
This year more folks are prioritizing travel and newfangled experiences. We’re inspired by beloved television shows à la Emily in Paris to reexamine cities we’ve previously visited. Scoring tickets to see our favorite musical artists, like Taylor Swift, fortuitously opens up the prospect of flying to a different country. A rising wellness and longevity movement encourages travelers to seek alcohol-free vacations. Slower and more intentional travel—quality over quantity—is important and sustainability and eco-minded experiences are at the forefront.
As incredible as viewing a total solar eclipse from Earth is, imagine seeing it from the sky. Well, Delta Air Lines is giving a set of lucky customers the chance to do just that on April 8, 2024, when the next solar eclipse will stretch across North America.
Forget Paris in spring: Rome is both warmer and cooler in the first few months of the year. The locals are in their winter black rollneck jumpers, accessorised with equally noir-ish sunglasses. With an average of 17C by March, it’s warm enough to sit outside cafés and bars, but not hot enough to fall foul of the “no shorts” rule enforced in Rome’s oldest churches.
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