the artist and the environment


I’ve been thinking about what I could contribute to the world wide discussion raised today with Blog Action Day. I decided to talk about my behaviour as an artist as well as a homemaker.

As an artist concerned for my own health and for the health of the environment, I stopped etching several years ago. I used to do a lot of deep etching, which meant using very strong acid baths because I wanted to imitate the weathering effects of nature in the process and the resulting images (in the Meta-morphosis series and many of the Nexus pieces). The etching facilities in the studio are very good, with powerful ventilation and special tanks to collect the wastes. That’s why I don’t do this at home! In spite of that I’ve been long concerned about residual absorption into my body as well as into the environment over my many years of printmaking.

I’ve been pleased to be able to use more and more digital processes in my printmaking though I haven’t been able to give up hand printed plates entirely. Collagraphs have been satisfying that need and I’m thinking of drypoints again, or possibly even linocuts and woodblocks. There’s still the issue of the solvents used to clean up the printing inks and I wish our shop would use some of the safer alternatives in the market even if they are costlier and a bit less efficient.

Some testing that was done on me a couple of years ago revealed a lot of toxins in my body. Learning this increased my resolve to eliminate as much exposure as possible, even to what I use in my home – the cleaning products, soaps, shampoo and the cosmetics I put on my skin. I’ve been switching to more organic produce and to antibiotic and chemical free naturally raised and fed chicken, beef and bison meat. Eschewing farmed fish, we’re lucky to find good wild salmon and other fish here but I’m concerned by the dwindling supplies in the world. I don’t use any pharmaceuticals, only naturopathic/homeopathic products when needed. I must give a lot of credit to my daughter Elisa for inspiring and teaching me by her example.

These are just a few of the ways I try to reduce my impact on the environment as well as to improve and guard my own health. I know that I could be making a lot more changes, like getting rid of my car, though I don’t drive it more than necessary.

Further reading:
on artists’ health
toxic-free artists

ADDENDUM: Wednesday, Oct.17th. Several people have expressed interest and some frustration in finding safe cosmetics, so I thought I’d add some of the links that I use that may help you in your search.
Skin Deep is a great resource where you can search products by brand name or ingredients. I use this one a lot.
The Dirty Dozen Chemicals in Cosmetics offers a handy check list of what to avoid.
My daughter Erika bought this book and recommends it highly: Ecoholic by Adria Vasil. I have to get my own copy!

October 15, 2007 in Being an Artist, Blogging, Environment by Marja-Leena