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Art for Our Sake

Collage of Artists Work

C-OFOKLA presented a unique event on Sunday, May 17th at the Homer Center for the Arts: part art exhibit, part lecture, part story telling. The result was a delightful afternoon for nearly 50 residents.

Artists Maria Rizzo and Karen Jean Smith had their works on display, each bringing numerous pieces. Author Robin Kimmerer and videographer David O. Brown were there to talk about their work with the intrigued attendees. At 4 p.m. everyone assembled in the Center’s auditorium to hear a short lecture from each of the artists.

David O. Brown kicked it off by recounting his sojourn from CNY around the world’s oceans, first photographing and later filming cetacean species and everything else to do with the water. A few years ago he returned to CNY to raise his family while continuing to pursue his aquatic-oriented video work. He first created a project, Baseline, that established a video record of the state of area lakes and streams. This was in anticipation of the potential damage had fracking been introduced to the region (though there are still significant threats). He has recently begun a new project: Fragile Legacy. Here is a promotional video on the project.

Robin Kimmerer followed by exploring the relationship of the indigenous peoples with nature vs that of the scientific community. Robin is not only Native American (Potawatomi) but a member of the scientific community with a PhD in Botany. She enchanted the audience with a Potawatomi creation story, describing how the earth was made. And she challenged the notion of sustainability which focuses on how we as humans can continue to take from the earth when we should be considering what we can give to the earth. Here is a video of her discussing this topic:


Maria Rizzo recently completed two year-long projects both of which reflected her love of trees. For Trees of Onondaga, she invited residents to send her photographs of trees they loved or which had special impact. She received over 150 submissions and produced 8 paintings, two from each season.  For Community Symbolic Tree she created an
outline of a tree in the shape of Onondaga County and then invited residents to help her paint it. She visited 16 libraries and 45 people got to paint for 20 minutes on the canvas. The result is permanently hung at the Onondaga Free Library.

After retiring from teaching art, Karen Jean Smith was looking for an outlet for her creative energies. She and her husband are avid kayakers and one day while out on a lake they come across some intriguing aquatic “nuts”. They were small, dark colored and very intricate. Karen worked up a prototype ceramic sculpture and became hooked on the shape and appearance of the plant. So she continued on, improving her design.

Invasivious, King of the Trapa Natans

At the same time, she researched the plant and discovered that it is an invasive species, water chestnut, and is very much a nuisance. This lead to an evolution of her work resulting in a series titled Explorations of a Nemisis. It is an aesthetic and imaginative interpretation in ceramic of the water chestnut, not only literally but fancifully.  She has constructed a whole mythology titled The Trapa Natans Dynasty: An Unfortunate Tale Based on the Truth.

This unique event was provided in part through the sponsorship of AXI Digital.