Art, science join forces for ‘Weather on Steroids’ show in La Jolla

One of the art works included in the upcoming La Jolla Historical Society exhibit, “Weather on Steroids,” on display Feb. 11-May 21 at Wisteria Cottage, 780 Prospect St., is a sculpted marble globe representing the Planet.

Titled “Tipping Point Climate Change,” the sculpture by Lilleane Pebbles has the continents appearing lower than the oceans to reflect sea level rise. According to a description in the show’s catalog, “A wire figure on the base pushing the globe represents a man’s greed and mistreatment of our planet.”

The sculpture is one of more than 10 pieces that artists from California developed for the exhibit after dialogues with Scripps Institute of Oceanography (SIO) scientists who research climate change or related matters. In this case, the artist worked closely with scientists Art Miller and Alexander Gershunov, who acted as a consultant for the exhibit.

“To me, that piece looks like the planet is going to start rolling down a hill,” Gershunov said. “But to someone else, it might mean that humanity is holding the Earth, saving it from rolling down the hill.

“We are on a tipping point of this geological age when humanity settled down and develop agriculture, complex society, history, science and everything that we enjoy about culture,” he continued. “And this climate period is coming to an end, because now humanity is becoming a major force in shaping the Earth’s environment, including climate.”

Gershunov added that when humanity realizes what is happening, it will acquire the power to change this tendency. “And that’s why this collaboration is so important,” he concluded.

Gershunov worked alongside curator Tatiana Sizonenko and La Jolla Historical Society executive director Heath Fox to create the “Weather on Steroids” show. The friendship between Sizonenko and Gershunov, both of Russian background, was the source of the idea for this exhibition. “Also,” Sizonenko said, “in the 13 years that I’ve lived in California, I’ve experienced the changes in the climate myself.”

Cosmic Collaboration

Sizonenko previously worked with Fox when he was Assistant Dean of Arts & Humanities at UC San Diego, and since the university is busy celebrating the 50th anniversary of its Visual Arts Department, the nearby La Jolla Historical Society became the perfect venue for the show. “La Jolla has many connections with SIO in different ways,” she added.

For Fox, hosting the exhibit was a natural step in the evolution of the Historical Society’s art space. “History is not just about the past, it is also about understanding the past, informing the present and shaping the future. Our mission is to make the diverse past of La Jolla relevant for contemporary society, so La Jollans are informed when they make decisions today that are going to affect the future.

“Science comes out of the laboratory and art work comes out of the studio, so this exhibit is an opportunity to provide a junction for those things so they can be communicated to the public,” he explained. The exhibit will feature the work of both scientists and artists, with panels about the science alongside the artwork.

“Scientists usually work by consulting with other scientists,” Sizonenko said, suggesting that scientific knowledge is sometimes not easily available to the public. Gershunov added, “Some of these art works are more abstract than others. In some cases, it’s clear what the artist is trying to convey in a visual way; you can actually sort of feel it. So that’s the beauty of this collaboration, because art is accessible to everybody.”

The organizers agreed that there is a timeliness to the show. “The issues of climate change seem to be debated with more frequency and vigor in the public domain as time goes on,” Fox said.

Sizonenko added, “I’m extremely happy because the conversation about climate change needs to go even further in our current political situation.”

The name of the exhibit, Gershunov explained, is an analogy comparing the changes of climate caused by the greenhouse effect to how steroids modify an athlete’s performance. “There’s a great athlete who just won a competition, and you ask, ‘Did she win because she took steroids?’ It’s very difficult to answer that question, but if you look at her performance over the time she started taking them, you can see the effect of steroids.”

Who’s Who

The participating artists, most of them from San Diego, include Tiersa Cosaert, Judit Hersko, Cheryl E. Leonard, Dana Montlack, Lilleane Peebles, Oscar Romo, Marcela Paz Luna Rossel, Eva Struble, Paul Turounet, Ruth Wallen and Allison Wiese.

The SIO scientists involved include Michel Boudrias, Michael Dettinger, Alexander Gershunov, Kristen Guiguis, Ralph Keeling, Manfredi Manizza, Art Miller, Walter Munk, David Pierce, Richard Somerville and Shang-Ping Xie.

After its La Jolla Historical Society run, the exhibit will move to the San Diego Central Library Gallery, downtown, June 10-Sept. 3.

IF YOU GO: “Weather on Steroids” will be on exhibit Saturday, Feb. 11 through Sunday, May 21 at Wisteria Cottage, 780 Prospect St. Public hours are noon-4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. Admission is free. A reception for Historical Society members will be hosted Friday, Feb. 10. (858) 459-5335. lajollahistory.org

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