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Kathleen J. Graves' Passionate Art Advocacy of the Environment

01/16/2014 11:37 am ET | Updated Mar 18, 2014

I firmly believe that we need a chorus of voices to tell the story of female desires, and female creativity. That there is a danger in having only one voice and one vision in any given story. So over the next couple of posts I want to share this space with a group of amazing women artists who are exploring desires that may or may not be specific to female desires. And so I begin with the work of Kathleen J. Graves whose "Bots" were recently shown at the Sagamore Hotel in Miami Beach during Art Basel. They are now part of the Cricket Taplin Collection.

Graves believes that there are "Bots" living among us -- Bots being artificially intelligent beings that camouflage themselves to blend into the gardens and landscapes of her large-scale photographs and her sculptures. Theses Bots are a bridge that the artist uses to discuss issues pertinent to the environment, including climate change, water issues and continued environmental degradation. Living in harmony with nature is of central importance to the artist -- but there is the monumental question of how exactly do we get to this place of living in harmony with nature? Graves is using her work to pose these questions. Says Graves, "I divide my Bot works into two parts -- the Garden Bots and the Bot Studies. The Bots in the Garden are curious and mysterious and I hope they provoke the viewer to ask, what they are, and why are they there? As they do look separate and different from the environment that they are in, I hope they provoke in the viewer an internal discussion about the condition of nature."

Grave's proposal is that technologies such as Bots will provide help with the environmental crisis we are all inescapably caught up in. Graves continues, "I'm trying to make work that speaks of the beauty and healthy environment we humans need to live life. I do long for so much of the wild nature we have lost, that is now merely history and is past. I am attempting closeness in the present. I am taking action through my work. My Bots are my way of asking how do we proceed?"

A question requiring an immediate answer if ever there was one.

Indeed Graves "Bots" are a wondrous sight to behold. I remember first coming face to face with her large photographs which interrogate the tradition of landscape painting and still life, in addition to photography, at an exhibition held at New York University. For the longest time I kept wondering to myself what exactly I was looking at. The work is gorgeous, visually it pulls you in, but the work is also unsettling because you have all these strange creatures inhabiting this beautiful place. I remember going away yet coming back to look at these strangely wondrous creatures for a long time. After a while I came to believe with Graves that as unsettling as her Bots are, they are as well assertive, and they love life and nature. Graves' hope is that the lushness of her image will indeed pull the viewer in and get the viewer to stop and really look at and think about the environment and think also about the other beings and creatures with which we share the environment.

For the artist focusing on technology as a way to solve such environmental problems as clean air, fuel sources, healthy food and over population, is one of the ways forward, since already, we have, collectively, made such poor choices when it comes to the environment. Yet, in her work, Graves remains optimistic. Says the artist, "I need to continue to combine my joyful experience of the outdoors with ideas about technology. I cannot imagine making work that only speaks of despair!" She continues, "To me the Bots represent the future, they will help us to survive on our planet."

And I can't help thinking, yes, and, hopefully, artists and even Bots will help us save our planet.

Kathleen J. Graves Passionate Art Advocacy

Until next time.