category: Art Lab

Art Lab Brings International Group of Artists to Meet With Scientists at Biosphere2

Posted 10 February 2012 by Ellen Skotheim

Tucson, AZ (11/11/11): For the second consecutive year, seven artists were invited by Art Lab to participate in Border Biosphere Exploration 2011, where they met with scientists and environmentalists to learn about the effects of climate change on the desert Southwest and then design a cultural response informed by the experience.

The artists represent an international cross section of various disciplines including digital media, mixed media sculpture, performance, installation, photography, painting and film. Fritz Buehner (New York-Boston), Eduardo “Pincho” Casanova Arosteguy (Montevideo, Uruguay), Melo Dominguez (Los Angeles-Tucson), Heather Green (Tucson), Jane Marsching (Boston), Macarena Montañez (Montevideo, Uruguay), and Bently Spang (Montana). All have been working in the field of environmental art.

As Art Lab Creative Director, I coordinated with Biosphere 2 scientists Joost van Haren, Kolby Jardine, Greg A. Barron-Gafford and Sujith Ravi to facilitate interaction with the artists. On the first day of their three-day visit, the B2 scientists were invited to join the artists for an informal discussion about art and science interface over breakfast, lunch and dinner, prepared by Phillippe Waterinckx, founder of Tucson Community Supported Agriculture.

On day four, Art Lab Technical Director John Newman drove the artists to the Institute of the Environment where they met with Jonathan Overpeck, Co-Director, Institute of the Environment, and Gregg Garfin, Deputy Director for Science Translation & Outreach before proceeding to Coronado Ranch and Cuenca Los Ojos Ranch, located on the Mexican side of the border.

Under the direction of Valer Austin, the artists spent three days touring the ranch where they learned its history and of her extensive efforts to re-establish plant life and animal migration. An impressive system of gabions promoting water retention, essential to restoring the land, has been built throughout the ranch.

The group was joined by Diana Hadley, Associate Curator, Arizona State Museum, and Yar Petryszyn, Assistant Curator of Mammals at the University of Arizona at Cuenca Los Ojos where they led discussions on animal migration, drought and ranching in Southern Arizona. They artists also learned the history of the San Pedro River, the last significant free-flowing river in the region, considered to be of paramount ecological and environmental importance, particularly to avian migration.

“I sincerely applaud the organizers for bringing together such a diverse, wonderful group of people,” said Bently Spang, a Northern Cheyenne artist who recently had an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum. “I truly feel that we created a bond between the group of artists and with the scientists and environmentalists that will endure beyond the parameters of this project.”

A festive gathering of the participants was held at the Tucson home of Cathrene Morton marking the close of the busy week. The artists then returned to their studios to assimilate their experience and produce a work of art for Art Lab. The works will be posted on the Rillito River Project website at

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Thursday, October 22, 2020