Acclaimed Cleveland artist Samantha Bias has partnered with the Cleveland Botanical Garden to present “Photo Synthesis: Transformative Environmentalists,” an exhibition which will highlight some of the most prominent environmental advocates, humanitarians and animal rights activists throughout time. The solo exhibition is (due to the pandemic) tentatively slated for August 4th-September 9th and will be hosted at Cleveland Botanical Garden.
During her 2019 summer residency with the Cleveland Print Room, Bias discovered what is called the Chlorophyll Process, which involves selectively preserving the chlorophyll in leaves. Positives of photographs are placed onto leaves and then covered with glass to be exposed to sunlight for varying periods of time, at which point the leaf is then pressed between two panes of glass to help preserve the image before it is framed. Bias’ ephemeral process does not use any preservation or archival chemicals, and she is resigned to the fact that her images will eventually decompose.
Worldwide, the process has only been used by one other person, Vietnamese artist, Bihn Dahn whose work tends to focus on the theme of death. Dahn was one of the youngest artists to be invited into the MFA program at Stanford University. Bias connected with Dahn and since has “…blossomed a fond relationship over plants, photography and love of this special process.” One difference between Bias’ and Dahn’s process, however, is that Dahn encases his work in resin before framing while Bias does not.
Coming from a painting background, and through her work with CPR, Bias discovered her new path.
“I was given the opportunity to discover new mediums that I otherwise shied away from," she said. "My mentality began to shift, as you can image over a decade of painting an artist can accumulate a lot of stuff! My closet became a graveyard of all of my old past paintings that were unfinished or didn’t sell. I began to think about what would happen to them after I left this earth. I didn’t want my mark on this earth to leave any more carbon foot prints that it already had…I still like to play in paint but I am enjoying this journey in the capturing of light.”
Some of the portraits to be included in the exhibition are impressions of people such as 17 year-old Isra Hirisi, daughter of the U.S. congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar, environmental activist and co-founder of U.S. Youth Climate Strike which has over 600 organizers; Animal Activist, Dr. Jane Goodall, who is most known for her work with chimpanzees, discovering their use of tools and advocating for the animals, our closest genetic relatives; and Walt Whitman who most people remember for his poetry collection “Leaves of Grass,” which praises nature and the individual’s role in it.
This exhibition comes at a time where human impact on climate change is at the forefront of political debate and where more and more people and businesses in Cleveland look towards sustainable and environmentally safe ways to produce goods and services.
Bias is asserting herself into lineage of artists who have since the 1960s engaged themselves in the environmental dialogue. Artists like Agnes Denes, who is considered the “The Grandmother of Environmental Art Movement,” have been trying to examine the world from a socio-political platform.
Most notable was Denes’ environmental art project, Wheatfield, a Confrontation From 1982, which involved a four-month process of her planting a field of wheat in a landfill not far from Wall Street in Manhattan near the World Trade Center. One might also consider influential, English-born artist, Andy Goldsworthy who some consider to be the “father of modern rock balancing” and who works continually with rocks, ice, flowers, leaves, branches and petals. His work tends to be site-specific installations involving natural materials and the passage of time.
From her bio: “Bias has been awarded over thirty awards in the past two years, three of which were national awards. Her work has been regarded in several press releases and a documentary is being currently filmed about her most recent processes. Bias enjoys sharing her passion with her community by teaching workshops as an art teacher for the city of Cleveland offering free art programming for all city residents.”
With Bias’s community involvement and her passion as an environmentalist, the collaboration between her and Cleveland Botanical Garden is certainly exciting.
Samantha Bias’ work: