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Artists show the damaging effects of climate change in ‘The Knew Normal’

“The Knew Normal” takes an edgy eye toward the damage wrought by climate change.

Opening on Saturday, Aug. 29, at 516 ARTS, the exhibition features paintings, drawings, sculpture and photography bearing witness to the damaging effects of global warming. The show is part of the gallery’s project “Habitat: Exploring Climate Change Through the Arts.”

Hope and humor blend with universal feelings of uncertainty and loss.

“It’s that negotiation of changes we’re seeing and adjusting to what we knew” from the past, curator Nancy Zastudil said.

Albuquerque’s Cedra Wood pairs intricate drawings of invasive species with portraits. Lemmings curl around the head of a woman like snakes as she cradles a fox in her lap beneath a mountain range.

In love with both the wilderness and the equally complex and lonely terrain of the human heart, Wood creates works marrying both worlds to build metaphors.

Miriam Simun is a research-based artist blurring the boundaries between art and social change.

In the Brooklyn artist’s photograph of a woman in profile, a cord snakes from behind her ear to the front of her nose like an insect’s antennae. The device is supposed to re-create the lost scents of a disappearing age. A play on creative destruction, Simun explodes the “logic” of capitalism requiring the incessant immolation of old systems in favor of the new.

“We can fool ourselves into thinking we’re eating chocolate when we’re eating fake food,” Zastudil. “It’s a little bit dark, but she is looking for ways to adapt.”

Simun also will present “GhostFood” at the gallery’s block party on Saturday, Sept. 12, on Central Avenue between Fifth and Sixth Streets. The performance/interactive event will explore eating in a future of biodiversity loss triggered by climate change.

The “GhostFood” mobile food trailer will serve scent-food pairings of unavailable foods using a wearable device. Simun is a former resident artist with the Santa Fe Art Institute.

With average temperatures in the Arctic and Antarctic rising twice as fast as they are elsewhere in the world, multiple icebergs calve from glacial floes.

In “Adrift,” New York-based photographer Magda Biernat pairs the chiseled Antarctic icebergs with abandoned Iñupiat Eskimo hunting huts. Their shapes and volumes echo one another.

“Lemmings” by Cedra Wood, 2014, is a graphite on paper in “The Knew Normal” at 516 ARTS.

“Lemmings” by Cedra Wood, 2014, is a graphite on paper in “The Knew Normal” at 516 ARTS.

“If you think of the melting of the glaciers, the fishing huts in Alaska will become obsolete,” Zastudil said.

Los Angeles artist Wendy Mason’s “Bronze” is a tongue-in-cheek sculpture pairing a bikini bottom with a bronzed bag of potato chips. The piece becomes a commentary on the ’80s California beach culture amid 21st-century awareness of the dangers of sunbathing, junk food, global warming and drought.

Her “Fragrance of 2009” presents a perfume atomizer attached to a potato. The juxtaposition of this somewhat dated luxury symbol with a common and affordable food symbolizes the recession that began its grip in 2008. The artist asks how we will fulfill our desire or need for things that make life “better.”

Renowned Houston artist Mel Chin’s “The Potential Project” imagines a world where solar currency becomes the method of exchange in the Western Sahara, complete with a Bank of the Sun.

“They don’t have a dollar currency,” Zastudil said. “What they do have is the sun as a model for the World Bank” instead of money or oil.

“He said at one point, he (Chin) was thinking like a bank.”

The artist repurposed an old Texaco gas station sign he found in Las Cruces for the project, painting a sun symbol over its famous star.

Chin will be the keynote speaker of “Habitat: Exploring Climate Change Through the Arts” at the University of New Mexico’s Keller Hall at 5:30 p.m. Sept. 10.

“He’s an extremely socially engaged artist,” 516 ARTS director Suzanne Sbarge said. “He pushes people’s imaginations forward in different ways.”

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