LET’S REVIEW: Bad news looks good in La Jolla Historical Society’s Climate Change show


On Earth Day, April 22, thousands of scientists, doctors, engineers and others took to the streets in Washington, D.C., joined by many thousands more in cities around the world. They were all taking part in a global March for Science, proclaiming their support for scientific research and their response to climate change deniers everywhere.

Among the signs they carried: “Make Earth Cool Again!” and “There is no Planet B!”

Here at home, La Jolla Historical Society has taken another approach with their current show “Weather on Steroids: The Art of Climate Change Science.” They invited 11 artists to meet with and be inspired by the work of 11 scientists, 10 from Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO) and one from USD’s Department of Environmental & Ocean Studies.

The result is a striking display of what’s been happening to our environment and how research and public awareness might help to stem the tide.

This is not just a didactic exhibition. It’s a thoroughly artful one, on view through May 21 at the historic Wisteria Cottage on Prospect Street that is now home to the Historical Society’s gallery.

As curator Tatiana Sizonenko, who has a Ph.D. in Art History from UC San Diego and now teaches and curates shows there, wrote in the spring issue of “Timekeeper,” the Historical Society magazine: “The vision for this exhibition is to bring together works that are beautiful, accessible and thought-provoking, not to be dismissed as merely art, agitprop or science. Stimulating visual objects merging art and scientific research… can incite a quest for understanding as to what must be done (to address) the problem of climate change.”

Also, she noted, the exhibit underscores the artist’s role in society, “what art can do and what all of us ... could do in response to the challenges of our day and age.”

Here are a few of the highlights:

‘Dust, Dissolution, Ablaze’

Marcella Paz Luna Rossel, artist

The two mosaic figures leaning against the wall to your right are the first things that may catch your eye as you enter the cottage. Composed of local sand, dirt, pebbles, animal bones, seeds, bits of wood, recycled glass and ceramics, they are lifesize females, stand-ins for both Mother Earth and the artist. One is surrounded by a drought-scape of cracked mud and desert sand (“Dust”), the other is immersed in a sea of flood-waters (“Dissolution”).

The figures reflect Rossel’s experiences in recent travels, feeling the impact of El Niño and La Niña, with record-high temperatures, torrential rains and devastating floods.


Cheryl Leonard, artist

This engaging, interactive installation by a San Francisco-based composer/performer/instrument builder deals with the erosion of California’s sandy beaches due to longterm El Niño cycles and other destructive climatic events. Composed of glass, wood, sand, dried kelp, string and fabric, it includes microphones, headphones, an iPod and a mixing board so visitors can listen to a soundscape created from recordings Leonard made along the California coast, often using instruments she made out of found materials, like a kelp flute.

Visitors can pump up the sounds by pouring sand into hanging vessels and setting pendulums in motion, which mimics effects of ocean currents on beaches.

‘Tipping Point Climate Change’

Lilleane Peebles, artist

This small but compelling sculpture shows a wire man pitting himself against a globe made of Carrara marble. He’s got one foot on a book of equations — a solid block of scientific data he’s completely ignoring, along with the globe’s receding Arctic ice and rising oceans. If he’s trying to push the world over, it’s not at its tipping point ... not yet.

After you’ve enjoyed the exhibition, a nice takeaway is the “Weather on Steroids” catalog, an attractive and informative publication whose cost ($15 members, $20 nonmembers) helps support LJHS programs.

IF YOU GO: “Weather on Steroids: The Art of Climate Change Science,” is on view through May 21 at La Jolla Historical Society Wisteria Cottage Gallery, 780 Prospect St. Hours: Noon to 4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday. Free admission. (858) 459-5335. Note: If you miss the exhibit here, it will be on view at San Diego Central Library, June 10-Sept. 3.