“Where are they now?” is a new series, following the recent work of artists who have been displayed in the Doug Adams Gallery over the years. This is the forth post in the series. New posts are published every Friday morning!
Paul Roorda was the first artist with whom the CARe Director Elizabeth Peña worked, after recently joining the Center for Arts & Religion as Interim Director. His 2014 exhibition, Icon & Artifact, used ashes, gold leaf, historical materials and discarded Bibles to express a neo-liturgical approach to Christian art and ritual. Like Judith Selby Lang and Richard Lang, featured on the blog last week, Paul is an artists whose medium is predominantly made up of previously used and since discarded objects. Paul also has a connection to the Langs in his concern with climate change, presented in his arresting sculptures and installation work. Over the last few years Paul has held multiple kinetic art exhibitions, the last of which, “Waiting for the Sea, Waiting for the Sky,” was held at the Kunstraumno.10 Gallery in Moenchengladbach, Germany in October of 2016.
While none of his recent exhibitions deal with “specifically religious beliefs,” Paul says that he has “become more interested in belief systems more broadly.” In particular, he looks at how beliefs are developed about climate change and understanding the weather. He says, “It isn’t so simple anymore. Beliefs about the climate are influenced by community, politics, science and the media … [as well as] our own immediate experience of the weather along with our memory of past decades.” His recent work reflects the struggle he perceives within all of us as we try to determine whether each new fluctuation in the weather is a “normal variation” or something more catastrophic, brought about by the actions of humankind. Of particular interest is people’s reactions to the phenomenon of climate change. He examines the multitude of responses we might have when faced with a problem that seems so monumental. Ranging from a sense of anxiety, a call to action, a feeling of paralysis or simply complacency, these emotions are vital elements of Paul’s Time Stops project.
Made up of slow, kinetic – moving – sculptures this project aims to “distort… nostalgia by transforming and combining found objects”. Paul has repurposed vintage clocks, music boxes, barometers, and weather recording devices, to create sculptures that are at once both playful and disturbing. Slow, dripping water and the gradual unwinding of mechanical devices create a sense of anticipation and apprehension in the works. By removing old, often obsolete mechanisms from the contexts in which they were originally housed, Paul is able to challenge what we think we know about the past.
In some works from this series, clock mechanisms trigger a sudden flapping of a wing or the unexpected rocking of a paper boat in a chemist’s flask. In other pieces, the viewer rings an office desk bell to startle a mechanical canary in an antique cage or turns the knob of a music box to begin a haunting distorted song to accompany the slow spin of a barometer needle submerged in water. A gentle breath of air against butterfly wings causes a barometer needle to waver, exposing the individual viewer’s complicity in climate change. One piece, Between Sea and Sky, takes six weeks for the finale of the kinetic element, when the paper boats have been gradually pulled between the narrow passage between the glass domes. The resulting collision brings to mind issues of overpopulation and the fight for dwindling resources.
Paul’s most recent work from this spring is the Weather and Wonder series, which once again deals with the climate change anxieties explored in his previous work. Similar materials are also used, to create installations, sculptures, and two-dimensional mixed media works. This collection focuses on the 16th-century concept of the “cabinet of curiosities” as a way to present art and artifacts. Both natural and cultural objects are used as a way to examine our intellectual and emotional response to climate change.
Paul says that, “by drawing on objects from nature, culture, religion, and science, and modifying, altering, and juxtaposing them,” he is able to replicate the confusion of information and images we are bombarded with by the media, in a historical format. Older pieces from his collection are included in these works, alongside altered and modified objects and images that Paul has collected over the years. The Weather and Wonder works are Paul’s most recent exploration of humankind’s difficulty with understanding our small place in a long history and on a vast planet.
Paul leaves us with these words, wishing to impress upon us the severity of the current ecological crisis, but also tinged with a profound optimism. “We believe it, but it is hard to believe: the changes to climate are incremental, but massive in consequence. And we, as small as we are, are part of the problem, and are part of the solution.”
Thanks for keeping us up-to-date with your work, Paul!
by Lydia Webster