Bolstering his ongoing body of work confronting the climate crisis, two new sculptures by Nashville-based artist Herb Williams (previously) address the interconnected impacts of environmental catastrophe and disastrous human consumption from the perspective of animals. A fawn, a pair of narwhals, and a small arctic fox compose the colorful menagerie, with a melting chunk of a glacier, cut branches, and sliced tree trunk completing the crayon-based ecosystems. The artist’s works are particularly timely following the IPCC’s bleak report earlier this month and recent climate-related tragedies, like fires ripping across California and Utah, Greece, and Siberia and a tropical storm that hit Haiti just days after the country was devasted by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake.
Both of Williams’ pieces rely equally on subject matter and medium to convey the urgency of the issues, as with the bands of color embedded within the fawn’s legs and hunks of wood in “Phantom Limb(s).” Bold, vibrant stripes illustrate the animals’ interpretations of deforestation and the potential for synesthesia, a condition allowing sounds to manifest visually. “The growth rings travel on as a sort of sonar after the tree is cut, and the animals see and hear the ripple effect as the loss is felt throughout the forest,” Williams says.
Similarly in the tusk-framed piece titled “Adrift,” distinct blocks of color encircle the drifting mass and bottom half of the narwhals’ bodies, showing the enduring effects of environmental disasters “similar to how the bands of sediment are left in homes after floodwaters recede,” he writes. “The bands are in the colors of black (oil spills), red (wildfires), green (irradiated waters from reactor spills), and even gold from luxury billionaire yachts running aground.”
Williams is currently working on six large-scale sculptures for the Atlanta International Airport, and you can follow his progress on Instagram.