Pope’s work explores the notion of ecstatic quietude and wonder as found in Nature during the present Age of the Anthropocene and the evolution into the Posthuman. She has a background in wandering, wondering, collecting, making, destroying, and re-making. She earned a BA in Fine Art from Berry College, MA in Art History from the University of Kentucky, and MFA in Studio Art from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has shown her artwork nationally and internationally including venues such as the Mint Museum Uptown, North Carolina Botanical Garden, and the Ionion Center for Arts and Culture, Kefalonia Island, Greece. She is currently Assistant Art Professor and Art Program Coordinator at Lenoir-Rhyne University.
Could you please describe who you are, where you are from and what your relationship to Anthropocene is?
I was born and raised on a farm in central Kentucky. My father is a poet, farmer, and teacher. My mother is a horticulturist and environmental activist and educator. We grew our own food, medicinal herbs, and raised livestock. As a child, I spent my days playing outside, wandering our land, immersed in Nature. That experience established a sense of wonder in the core of my being that I have carried with me throughout my life and my artistic practice.
My work explores the notion of ecstatic quietude and the emotion of wonderment found in Nature during the Anthropocene Age and the evolution into the Post-human. I do this through an exploration of materiality. I collect both natural and man-made materials then combine them through a variety of methods with the intention of creating a new form which raises questions about our current relationship to Nature.
Throughout this ontological process of collecting, I take note of my personal emotional response to the awe-inspiring beauty and sublime experiences of the natural world. I observe intricacies of the microcosmic and macrocosmic aspects of Nature, such as varying patterns of veins within the flesh of a leaf or a title wave of wind rolling through a field of grass before a storm. Works are often inspired by the site-specific location of which I find objects as well as distinct moments of interconnectedness to the source of being. This connection, this emotion of wonder, these moments of ecstatic quietude are a reminder of birth, mortality, morality, ethics, and existential purpose during the present age which is centered on progress, industrialism, consumerism, and technological advancement. After collecting, I then translate these observations into a new mutated form often using synthetic materials such as silicone, LED lighting, or resin. Along these same lines, my paintings are a means of constant exploration between experimentation with the traditional and collected experiences and objects from Nature. Light and ethereality are central to my creations.
Though collected objects hold my memory and my emotional response to witnessing moments of ecstatic quietude while collecting, I cannot assume these emotions to be translated. Instead, I can only inspire questions. What is my relationship to Nature? What is your relationship to Nature? What is our relationship to Nature during the present Age of the Anthropocene?
Was it always your intention to become an artist? How did that develop?
Yes, I believe it was always my intention to become an artist, though that intention was often hidden, and my path has been winding. I have always enjoyed making. In high school, my passions for painting and drawing began to develop and I was admitted to the Governor’s School for the Arts in Kentucky. That opportunity led to a college scholarship. In college, I majored in art with a concentration in painting. After graduating I worked in the museum and gallery field for years and also earned an MA in Art History at the University of Kentucky. It was after my son was born in 2013, that I knew it was time to focus all my energy on making art rather than solely exhibiting the work of others. We lived on a goat farm in Kentucky at that time and during my maternity leave I would take my son on long walks and I began collecting natural objects and memories outside through photography and sketches. It was a return to meaning for me in so many ways. All the sudden I was reminded of what was important; birth, love, and living well and in harmony with the earth. I wanted to express that knowledge and so I developed a portfolio over the course of a year and was accepted into the MFA program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. I became an Art Professor and Program Coordinator at Lenoir-Rhyne University two weeks after graduating and began to exhibit my work locally, nationally, and internationally.
On your website you show that you work with different materials and types of art (sculpting, painting, portraits, etc.). Which one is your favorite and why?
I consider myself an interdisciplinary and cross disciplinary artist. I see no boundaries between mediums and enjoy the process of experimenting with the use of a variety of mediums to be quite satisfying. That said, I have found that different mediums satisfy me in different ways and also help to convey the questions I seek to ask in different ways. For instance, painting for me is an intuitive form of expression. Though it takes planning, it is like a dance in which I let go and let another partner lead. My sculptural works and installation also serve as a release in that my process almost always begins slowly, outside with observation, care, and sustainable collecting. After collecting, those works take a great deal of time with research, planning, experimentation, and refining of those experiments. They are more meticulous and thus serve to satisfy that side of myself.
As an artist who has made Anthropocene art, is it a theme that you see in your every day-to-day life as well? Do you think you live consciously?
Yes, it is certainly a theme and one that I quite frankly struggle with each day. When I began graduate school then took the Art Professorship in North Carolina, we moved from our farm (where my husband I had lived for 13 years) to the town of Hickory. We moved from vast expanses of green fields and trees to a neighborhood that was just a couple of blocks from large industrial warehouses, fast food restaurants, and businesses. It was shocking. The noise alone woke me up to the present state of living; the constant production and progression towards a seemingly endless road of consumption without renewal or revival. Though our lifestyle is different from living on a sustainable farm, we do our best to live mindfully. We have an edible garden and flower garden for pollinators. We have made the conscious choice as a family of four to consume very little meat. We recycle, compost, minimize our commutes, and drive hybrid cars. But, perhaps the most conscious thing we do is to try to spend the majority of our time outside, connecting to the soul of our purpose – being in Nature and realizing our role as part of the whole.
The topic Anthropocene is becoming more popular, what are your thoughts about that? Do you think that the increase in popularity will help to change people’s behavior?
I am glad the topic is becoming more popular. We have reached a point where it is undeniable that humans have altered the earth. I hope that this increased popularity will help to change people’s behavior. I honestly believe small changes by many could have a large effect.
In your opinion, do you think that humans have permanently changed earth? Please explain your answer where you can.
Humans have permanently changed earth. Again, I believe that is undeniable. Global warming is here. Pollution is here. Pandemics are here. We are living in an age in which we have done great harm for years to our planet and we are seeing the consequences. I have struggled with that fact a great deal. I have felt anger at myself and my own species. But I have let that anger go because it doesn’t take anger to inspire change. It takes gratitude. I firmly believe that if we change our relationship to Nature, we can make a difference. We are Nature. All living organisms, beings, land, waterways, the sky, the cosmos are connected and are one. If we can learn anything from climate change, we can learn that. Our actions have an impact on the micro and macro scale because we are a part of the whole. That realization comes with a great responsibility. If we are part of the whole, as humans we must take care of the whole. We must give as much or more as we take. That takes a change in perspective. For years, we have seen Nature as a resource and that has created a sense of a divide. If instead, we saw our role in Nature as a reciprocal role, one of gratitude and reverence, I believe everything could change. This is why I want to question the human relationship to Nature through my work. I can’t tell people to change. They must feel wonder through Nature again and decide, based on those emotions, to change.
Did the COVID-19 situation we are currently in chance anything for you as an artist?
COVID-19 solidified my beliefs in climate change and the Age of the Anthropocene. People are dying globally due to a pandemic that many scientists have linked to destructive human activities on the planet such as deforestation, logging, mining, road building through remote places, rapid urbanization and population growth. These facts propel me forward in the creation of artwork that questions our current relationship to Nature.
What are you currently working on? If there is nothing now, do you have any ideas of work for the future?
I tend to work on multiple series at a time. That approach allows me to experiment on some projects, while refining others.
Anthropogenic Atomspheres – Over the past several months, I have been working on an experimental painting series that addresses the notion of metaphysical ascension during the Anthropocene Age through the metaphorical depiction of migratory birds or patterns of ascending vapor within an atmospheric landscape. Through this series, I explore various modes of altering applied pigments with found natural objects and my body – adding, removing, wiping, scratching, and throwing natural objects onto the canvas. I do this as a means of expressing my personal emotional and metaphysical response to the current liminal space in which we live; the anthropogenic atmospheres that humans have created. I am intrigued by the creation of immersive atmospheres through paint as a means of expressing mood. For this reason, the majority of the works are quite large. The addition of physically working with collected natural objects only strengthens my emotional dilemma and raises further need for inquiry. The palette of the works are inspired by Romantic Painters such as JMW Turner, who addressed a variety of contemporary topics through emotive painting methods.
Rain Collaborations – Since 2018 I have been working on Rain Collaborations. Lately, I have been creating these works in large scale (30” x 60”) as I want to create a more immersive experience with the viewer. Further information on the series: In the summer of 2016, while participating as Artist-in-Residence at the Burren College of Art in Ireland, I began a collaborative mixed media series with the rain. I painted an abstract watercolor on recycled paper based on the emotion of wonder that I felt while immersed in the region. While the painting was still wet, I set it out in the rain. After the work had dried, I painted lines derived from linear patterns from a found computer microchip. The result was a work which sought to call attention to the existential multiplicity of the present. That is, the need for both the holiness found in Nature and the need to find our place within a culture of hard lines, structure, technology, and progress. Can grass represent human culture? Domesticity? Manipulation? Collaboration?
During the COVID-19 I began experimenting and creating natural pigments. I have experimented with blueberry, camellia, grass, rust, coffee, dirt, compost, and others. The result is a new mixed media series of works on paper in which I follow intuition in making abstract marks which echo both macro and micro experiences in Nature. My goal is to exhibit these works, then sell them individually and donate the majority of the proceeds to environmental non-profits which focus on educating our youth and finding more sustainable approaches to living in harmony with Nature.
Sculpture – I am currently working on sculptures made from found dried weeds with insect galls in them. I am combining these weeds with man-made objects such as nails and pins to create kinetic hanging pieces which explore shadows and reflect shapes found in the cosmos.
Works of the artist
Rain Collaboration Rain, watercolor, graphite on recycled paper 2018 24” x 18"Anthropogenic Atmosphere Oil on canvas applied with my body and natural objects 2020 36” x 48”Migration #1 Oil on un-stretched canvas applied with body and natural objects 64”h x 41”w...