Opening Speech (edited for blog post) from:
Conversations with the Sea: A Collaborative Presentation in Words and Pictures at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers – Friday March 28, 2014
Over a year ago I watched a trailer for a documentary film featuring the Laysan Albatross. The film is called Midway, and is the creation of artist/director Chris Jordan. To this day, I have not actually seen the film itself but I’ve watched the trailer countless times [to my knowledge, the film has not actually been released]. I was so moved by both the incredible beauty and the deep sadness of what I saw, and I felt such strong desire to respond to it in some way, but I had no idea where to begin…
I did know however that I wanted to respond in an artistic way, because it is through art that we have the power to transform; to transform what we see, to transform our understanding of a chosen subject, and to transform ourselves. In order to live our lives in a conscientious way while facing some of the dark realities of our time, we have to carry a bit of that weight with us throughout every day life. But through art, we have the power to balance out the darkness through the presence of light.
A conversation between my friend Hannah Fries (poetry and associate editor at Orion magazine) and myself is what eventually brought the idea for this project into being. We began it merely because we wanted to explore an artistic dialogue together, never knowing we would end up presenting it at the Berkshire Festival of Women Writers. What our audience hopefully experiences between Hannah’s poems and my illustrations is really an artistic conversation, and a means for us to more deeply explore a challenging reality of our time. And that conversation is an ongoing one.
Neither of us has ever seen an albatross in person. When we began this project, we approached the actual topic from afar… imagining our albatross way out in the distance, coming towards us. As the project progressed and we came into closer relationship with our albatross, both the project and ourselves were able to transform.
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We wanted to give our festival audience a better idea for the size of bird we were talking about, so I made a quick wingspan sketch. Although the larger bird, the great albatross (10 to 12-foot wingspan), is not featured in the Midway trailer, I realized through some research that most of the albatross families are endangered in some way due to ocean pollution or other ecological issues. The laysan albatross pictured below (6-foot wingspan) is the one from the trailer, and thus speaks in some way for all endangered species.
“Do we have the courage to face the realities of our time?
And allow ourselves to feel deeply enough that it transforms us and our future?”
~ Chris Jordan