David Brower, one of the fathers of modern environmentalism, joined his movement before it really was a movement. There was no specialization as yet in the ranks—there were no ranks, to speak of—which forced him to do a little of everything: grassroots organizing, political lobbying, speaking, preaching, teaching, advertising, photographing, writing, publishing, film-making. Energized by necessity and by an all-consuming passion for the cause, he became very good at all these things. If, in his own view, he was best at any one of them, it was in his skill at deploying the arts — photography, painting, poetry, prose, journalism, cartooning, book-making, film — in the service of the fight to save the Earth. In his hands, art helped kill ill-considered dams, helped create national parks and wilderness areas, and helped plant the ethos of environmentalism in the mind of the average citizen.
The Hazel Wolf Gallery of The David Brower Center, with its “Art of Advocacy” theme, continues the Brower tradition by exhibiting the work of past and present-day artists working toward the same goals, creators of art that advocates for nature, for biological and cultural diversity, for environmental justice, and for planetary salvation. The series seeks to explore the diversity of ways in which art serves the movement. Exhibits will range from retrospective to cutting-edge, amateur to expert, local to global.
“He taught us to see,” Brower wrote of a colleague, the photographer Eliot Porter. Seeing the world through the eyes and works of the artist can inspire, arouse, and inform. Art can deepen awareness of the beauties of nature and the threats to it, and the sorrows and promise of human society. Making art can be about more than catharsis and communication: creation becomes a way to strengthen the artist’s understanding and resolve. Experiencing art that takes the natural world and its peoples as subject, whether as observer or creator, can build awareness and engagement and make advocates of us all.