About 120 people attended the opening of the Concerned Artists Resisting Extinction (CARE) exhibition entitled “Emergency: Species Loss” at the Art Gallery in Bairnsdale on Friday. Due to covid restrictions the opening was held in the open space between the gallery and the Court House. Officially opened by Mayor Mendy Urie, three of the artists, including Pat Waters from Briagolong, gave short speeches and other East Gippsland Shire councillors attended.
CARE is the brainchild of Munro wildlife artist Dawn Stubbs and, after a month in Bairnsdale, the exhibition will travel to Sale, Orbost, Maffra and other locations. 50 artists from across the region exhibited their paintings, sculptures and installations. Dawn noted: “Concerned Artists Resisting Extinction held its first meeting around 18 months ago with the idea that through visual and performing arts in all mediums, we would respond to Australia’s shocking record of species loss. We are not politicians so we aim to tell these tragic stories through holding exhibitions that challenge and bring awareness and attention to the public.”
Some works concentrated on specific threatened species such as the mountain pygmy possum, the greater glider, and the baw baw frog. One artist was concerned about the decline of fish species –the blackfish and a local galaxia. Others concentrated on our recent bushfires and the effects of logging on our native species, where the connections to our warming planet are clear. A few pieces directly connected species loss to climate change.
We have artworks by three of these artists on the walls of our unit – Deirdre Jack, Ray Dahlstrom and Penny Carruthers – and I know a number of the others. One piece missing from the exhibition was something on the grey-headed flying fox* – a threatened species, a colony of which is on the Mitchell River a 10 minute walk from the gallery. This colony suffers drastically in our increasingly frequent heatwaves and if it cannot re-locate will be a certain casualty of global warming. Perhaps one of our budding photographers can put together something on this theme for the next exhibition?
The famous quote from poet John Donne “Hark not for whom the bell tolls” (used by Hemingway as the title for his novel on the Spanish Civil war) is pertinent here for the threatened species for whom the bells are tolling are telling us “it tolls for thee.” Extinction is forever and humankind is not exempt from the laws of nature.
*Correction. There is a display of the flying fox in the Exhibition by photographer Lisa Roberts that I missed, though not in the heatwave context I had imagined.