Artist Susan Shanti Gibian shares her creative vision and process behind these fantastic earthworks inspired by her love and respect for nature:
When you love something, there is a natural desire to protect it. For me, being in nature brings a profound sense of peace and calm. I create earth-based works to express my love and gratitude for the earth, and to protect her. Not only does this work reflect my love of nature, it reminds people of their sacred connection to the natural world and addresses issues that threaten the health of the environment, such as climate change and invasive plant species.
My work reflects the ephemeral and transient qualities of life. When I am working directly with the earth and natural objects I am reminded of the inevitability of change, of death, decay and transformation. I respond by engaging in a collaborative dance with nature in appreciation of this present moment. I move a stone, a branch, a leaf, and the forces of nature respond – wind, rain and sunlight generates a new pattern, color, shape or form.
An attitude of curiosity develops, and a willingness to live in a place of uncertainty, where the outcome is unknown. Being in this space of openness and vulnerability I see more clearly the incredible beauty and fragility of life. It is from this space that I allow forms and images to emerge.
The grasses that I sculpt with are invasive grasses, which prevent more delicate native species of plants from thriving. Pulling these invasive grasses is a small act that I perform to restore balance to this environment. As I create a form I am struck by a sense of wonder and awe to see what precious treasure lies hidden beneath the grass.
Ephemeral Wonders, a series of 15 site-specific installations I created in the forest of Ward Pound Ridge Reservation in Pound Ridge, NY, provided an opportunity for people of all ages to wander through the forest and experience something magical. Most people are accustomed to viewing art in a gallery or museum. Ephemeral Wonders invited people to go outdoors to experience art constructed from only natural objects found on the forest floor, in the natural environment. Many people commented that it reminded them of how they felt when they were children; how they used to build things out of branches and stones.
The fact that this type of environmental artwork is very temporary adds to the magic of the experience. Being site-specific, it cannot be uprooted and moved to another location. It is exposed to the elements and very quickly decays. The work exists for only a few precious moments in time.
The installations were fortunate to have survived the winds of Hurricane Irene when the works were still in progress. In fact, many of the branches brought down by the powerful storm became materials to form the site-specific sculptures. However, the Ephemeral Wonders collection and the entire cathedral pine forest was destroyed by the wrath of Hurricane Sandy.
How ironic that not only the artworks were ephemeral, but the forest too. Ephemeral Wonders Requiem is an ongoing project of mine involving the documentation of the restoration project of the former site of the installations. The site was cleared of fallen trees and new saplings were planted. The area was fenced off to keep deer from grazing on the newly planted trees. It will take many years before the forest matures.
Scientific studies have suggested that global warming may impact hurricanes by making them more intense. By creating and exhibiting this series of work, I hope to remind people of their intimate relationship with the Earth and to increase awareness of the issue of climate change. The places we love may only be here for a few precious moments before they are gone forever.
About the Artist:
Susan Shanti Gibian is an artist, teacher and meditation practitioner whose work focuses on living from the wisdom of the heart and respecting the environment. She has exhibited her work in solo and group exhibitions in California and New York. Sharing her passion and enthusiasm for the creative process, Shanti gives public lectures on environmental art, and teaches workshops on Earth Art at various venues. She currently teaches classes in painting and meditation at the Westchester Community College.
Shanti’s upcoming exhibit, Sacred Environments, will feature photographs of her Ephemeral Wonders series of site-specific earth-based installations. The exhibit will run from May through December 2017 at the Union Arts Center, Sparkill, NY, with an opening reception on Sunday, May 21, from 2-4pm. To learn more about her fantastic art, visit her website.