As the summer season nears its end, we couldn’t think of a better way to reflect on these wild months than Caitlin Parker’s Salton Sea. Between climate crises, COVID cases, and overall chaos, we often found ourselves consumed with the continuous news cycle. Parker’s soft, soothingly neutral watercolor palate is a visual meditation, an invitation to thoughtfully consider adversity while finding hope in our experiences.
Below, Rodabaugh digs into the role of artists during times of plight and prosperity and unpacks the poignant optimism of Parker’s Salton Sea. Read on!
Being an environmentalist in 2021 is an impossible feat. As much as we try to amend our habits to be more reciprocal towards the planet, capitalism explodes in new and unfettered ways and we’re seduced by synthetics, carbon, and overconsumption. We dream of redesigned systems that consider people and the planet and yet we’re uncertain how best to advocate for this reality. In Salton Sea, Caitlin Parker acknowledges our wrongdoings and holds us accountable yet she invites us to look more closely and examine what beauty remains. The story of the Salton Sea is one of a tragic human interaction with the land that resulted in great toxicity and barrenness. Yet Parker looks with such a soft gaze and begs us to look with her, insisting we not yet turn away. She grants us permission to look closely, disapprove, and then detect something beautiful and move closer again.
Parker’s work is soft and strong and understated and intellectual and achingly beautiful all at once. She surprises us with her kindness. Graces us with her generosity. Her use of natural dyes, local plants, and a stunning land-based color palette feel familiar and comforting like a favorite meal, worn quilt, or a welcomed phone call at just the right time.
Salton Sea’s composition includes the telephone wire, the abandoned architecture, the geometry of human construction and yet she alludes to something of an untamed beauty, a knowing ache, and a desire for softness. The colors bring me closer to a landscape that is familiar yet unknown; wild yet architectural; beautiful in all its juxtaposition but ultimately, tender.
Parker’s unwritten definition of an environmentalist is one I want to better understand as it seems to include that human thing we can’t survive without—hope—while encouraging us that our history must coexist with an optimistic future. Hope is what motivates us to continue in the face of great adversity. It’s what gives rise to experiments and iterations and impulses that lead to incredible breakthroughs. While we might wonder what authentic impact we can have outside of a profession in policy, science, or green technology, artists and authors and activists continue to provide that impossible human resource that pirouettes, shimmers, and gives flight—they provide hope.
The 411 on Katrina Rodabaugh
Katrina Rodabaugh is an artist and writer working across disciplines to explore environmental and social issues through craft techniques. She works at the intersections of fiber, fashion, and sustainability. Straddling fine art and contemporary craft, her artwork, writing, and designs have been featured in venues across the US and abroad including various books, magazines, blogs, galleries, theaters, craft fairs, and a tiny house built by her husband.
Katrina is the author of three books: The Paper Playhouse (2015); Mending Matters (2018); and Make Thrift Mend (2021). She earned a BA in Environmental Studies and an MFA in Creative Writing/ Poetry but her fiber arts training started at the side of her mother’s sewing machine. In addition to writing, Katrina teaches mending, plant-dyeing, and sustainable fashion. She also designs thoughtful, sustainable kits and products in small batches for her online shop. When she's not working, she's typically in the garden or in the woods with her young sons. Katrina spent most of her adult life in large cities in New York and California, but she now lives in a small town in the Hudson Valley of NY where she tends an ancient farmhouse, chickens, bees, and many dye plants.
Site: www.katrinarodabaugh.com Instagram: @katrinarodabaugh