The Flowers are Burning…Oceans A Rising

An Art and Climate Justice Exhibition
A Collaborative Project by
Helen R. Klebesadel and Mary Kay Neumann

Celebrating Earth Day’s 50th Anniversary!
Holy Wisdom Monastery

The artists invite you to ponder these questions while viewing their paintings:

  • What are you missing that used to be abundant, or what are you concerned will be lost if we don’t make the necessary changes?
  • Are you willing to take positive actions to contribute to making a real difference?
  • How can we find ways to work together to create the world we want to live in?

“The Flowers Are Burning” seeks to both evoke a sense of alarm at our immediate need to address urgent environmental concerns, and hold up the vision of the possibility of rising from the ashes of restorative prairie burn.

Artists Mary Kay Neumann and Helen Klebesadel embrace the potential of flower as metaphor. Their watercolor paintings explore the poetic, symbolic and political representations flowers offer in exploring both human nature and the natural world. Recognizing and celebrating cultural association of flowers with the feminine, they pointedly render their paintings with strong color palettes, rich implied emotional content, and complex compositions. Their large expressive flower paintings create environments of saturated color and texture that belies the fragility of flowers.

They consciously shift the historical stereotype of the female “flower painter” from something to be avoided by the serious woman artist, to embracing flowers as creative and critical metaphors that are an inspiration for breaking through the paralysis of overwhelming despair and coming together with shared purpose.

Themes that move Klebesadel revolve around concerns for the negative effect of climate change on the birds, bees, and butterflies we take for granted, and by extension, what it means for humans. At the same time, she holds out the possibility of abundant rejuvenation that prairie fires bring when nature is in balance with human activity. Neumann’s sunflower fields have looming fires that evoke the ominous droughts in California, and hint at the current ocean crises of Sea Star Wasting Disease, where the starfish are literally melting away. Haunted by the phenomenon of destructive climate change, the artists intend to use their art to counter the denial and despair in favor of encouraging actions that could make a difference.

Both artists create large-scale watercolor paintings with rich color saturation. They exhibit individual artworks with shared themes and, for the first time, paintings that are co-painted. Helen and Mary Kay collaboratively painted several works through back and forth exchange. An amazing synergy emerged from their shared feminist values, allowing effective co-operation and creative collaboration with wonderful results, modeling a process we will all need to make real and productive change for our shared future.

Klebesadel and Neumann invite you to engage with their paintings and witness the energy of flowers burning with power AND beauty. For information about booking our exhibition, please see our contact page.


Apr 16 2020 - Jun 25 2020
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