“Art connects with us at an emotional level and a human level and touches on that empathy that’s in all of us.”
Detail of Anjali Mitra’s “The Seas Are Rising, So Are We,” 2020
Earlier this year, when volunteers painted trees in downtown Salem bright blue for a new Peabody Essex Museum installation, a passerby remarked that the trees hadn’t always been there.
“He walked up and asked us what we were doing, as many did,” recalled Jane Winchell, the director of PEM’s Art & Nature Center and curator of Natural History. “And he said, ‘These trees weren’t here before, right?’ But the trees had been there for years, passed unnoticed by many, until they were painted blue for Konstantin Dimopoulos’s ‘The Blue Trees’ installation.”
Using a chalk-based, non-toxic pigment, Dimopoulos turns attention toward local trees to highlight the global concern of deforestation, a major contributor to climate change and biodiversity decline. His PEM installation is his 27th worldwide.
“The Blue Trees” is one of several ongoing environmental exhibits at PEM. Winchell is spearheading PEM’s new climate and environment work, and so far, she says, it’s “been a really rewarding and inspiring and empowering process to take part in.”
Other exhibits in the initiative include “Down to the Bone,” a collection of work by nature photographer Stephen Gorman and New Yorker illustrator Edward Koren, showing photos of polar bears struggling to survive in the Arctic alongside Koren’s hairy, anthropomorphic cartoon animals at the mercy of human-made climate disaster. “Climate Change: Inspiring Action” highlights climate solutions through the work of a range of contemporary …