"Communities, Disaster & Change" is a traveling exhibition coordinated by the Valdez Museum and Historical Archive, in Valdez, Alaska. It provides a twist on the fiftieth anniversary of the Good Friday Earthquake commemoration through its connection with other communities and other disasters. The exhibit will travel around the state as well as to Oregon, and Hawaii. The full travel schedule and complete online gallery of the exhibit can be seen here.

This blog serves as a place to host a global conversation about the indomitable nature of the human spirit and communities' reactions to change, how they survive disaster and how they rebuild for the future. We hope this can be a tool for people like you, all across the world, to reach out and share your stories on survival and the will to carry on.

If you have seen the exhibit whether online or in person we want to know your reaction to the work of these twenty-eight Alaskan artists. Please join us in an ongoing conversation, and chime in with your thoughts, views and your personal stories of your community, disaster, and change.

22 October 2014

Inspiration From Natural Disaster


  There is an interesting challenge in writing these blogs. When speaking or writing about an artist’s “inspiration” for their work I often say “the artist draws inspiration from the 2011 tsunami, earthquake, hurricane etc…..” This is one of the subjects the “Communities, Disaster & and Change” blog is meant to address.  Feelings of guilt cause me to search for other words than “Natural disaster inspired….”

An artist creates beautiful work “inspired” by natural disasters. Viewers admire this work with awe, beauty and sometimes shock. After feeling appreciation for art like this, we should ponder what is really behind the canvas? This natural disaster that so “inspires” us to create art has torn lives apart. The death of loved ones and the loss of belongings is tragically a result of disaster. Art “inspired” by natural disasters such as John Martin’s painting “The Great Day of His Wrath” (1950), Andy Warhol’s “Vesuvius” painting (1985), or the anime art of Hayao Miyazaki are examples of this. Why does the power of these events and the suffering of victims evoke such a reaction to make art? Is it morally appropriate?

When confronted with these questions we can see that suffering evokes strong emotions causing individuals to seek out ways to express themselves. Creating art is one such way. As a victim, making art can help a person cope. A good example is in the October 10th CDC blog about San Zaw Htway. He creates art to help his anguish having endured disaster. He travels Myanmar teaching orphaned children to express their grief through creating art. What about artists that were not victims that create art from natural disaster? Do they sympathize with sufferers? So much so they search for outlets, too? Did they possess the forethought of what victims might have gone through? Some viewers admire these works never knowing, possibly like the artist, what suffering is behind them.

American artist, Walter de Maria (1960) said, “I like natural disasters and I think they may be the highest form of art possible to experience.” This is said, by no doubt, by a person who has not experienced such tragedy. There is not a soul out there who has experienced such devastation that would say they “like” disaster because art could be made from it.

Some disaster art by Tattfoo Tan, a New York artist, was created to provide feelings of hope. His work “Dried Food” was inspired by Hurricane Sandy in 2012.  Dried Food is meant to encourage people to engage in disaster preparedness.  He highlights the vulnerability of countries and the importance of being ready when disaster strikes. He aspires to help people through his art.

Do you as a reader think it is morally appropriate to take inspiration from natural disaster that one did not experience? Should be be left solely to those who have endured such horrific events to create art from tragedy?

 Link to Andy Warhol’s “Vesuvius” & John Martin’s “The Great Day of His Wrath”

Link to Tattfoo Tan’s Work



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