Ten percent of the purchase price of my paintings goes directly to Illinois-based Prairie Rivers Network or to an environmental organization of the purchaser’s choice.
In 2011, I organized an exhibit of my work in conjunction with the Prairie Rivers Network. This gave our Illinois affiliate of the National Wildlife Federation both a microphone and a percentage of painting sales to help further their advocacy for clean water throughout the state. Later that year, I donated a painting to the Waterkeeper Alliance, the largest water advocacy non-profit in the world with representatives throughout the US and abroad. This year, after participating in climate marches in both my hometown and in Washington DC (where I also learned about Benefit Corporations), I approached my gallerist, Kasia Kay about making environmental advocacy a permanent feature of my artwork. She generously agreed to divide the 10% donation with me. Currently the prices for my paintings range between $1,000 to $15,000. That translates to between $100-$1,500 donation dollars going directly to the protection of clean water every time a paintings is sold.
Ask my kids and they’ll tell you: I am preoccupied with environmental issues. Landfill concerns, factory farming, water use…you name it: it’s been on my radar since I was a kid myself, growing up in California drought. As an artist and theater professional, the problematic relationship between construction and resources is always on my mind. Happily though, recycling and re-use are not just virtuous, they can be artistically stimulating as well; restrictions and limitations are also mothers of invention.
I love painting on wood panel. It’s a traditional process: think Renaissance altars or the Mona Lisa. To my eye, it gives the paint an almost enamel-like brilliance, and it lends itself better to aggressive paintwork -like scraping and nailing- than canvas does. But deforestation and landfill make me fret, so I called the contractor who recently re-built my dilapidated kitchen. He now drops his high quality wood scraps-cut into a beautiful array of odd lengths and widths- at my doorstep instead of the dumpster. I also incorporate cast-off materials from construction sites, salvage warehouses and our local reuse store into my paintings. I keep my use of solvents to almost nil by using common vegetable oil and dish soap to clean my brushes. My paint, containers and rags are stored in a metal barrel until enough accumulate to be recycled into fuel.
We are all hard on the environment, that’s to be sure. None of us treads lightly on the earth, but it is becoming increasingly easier, with the help of responsible manufacturers and retailers, to contain the damage we do in the name of art. It just takes some forethought, research and organization to conduct our practices responsibly. Meanwhile, as I tell my kids, each and every one of our thoughts and actions continues to influence our culture and impact our world, hopefully for the better.