State of Nature

State of Nature is a reflection on lost connections to the natural world, past indigenous understanding and animistic belief in our relationship to the world we live in and the greater cosmos. Virtue’s intention is to inspire reflection on our place in the current climate crisis and who we may need to become in order to change what could be an inevitable outcome. The state of nature, in moral and political philosophy, religion, social contract theories and international law, is the hypothetical life of people before societies came into existence. The mythological characters and endangered species in these paintings highlight their existence in our consciousness. Many of us have become more and more disconnected from nature. As we hurtle into an uncertain future impacted by the visceral effects of climate change the viewer is invited to reflect upon their place in the current state of nature.   

I hope this message finds you all in good spirits and the impacts of the pandemic are starting to feel less restrictive in your hearts and minds.  I’m eternally grateful for my family and friends. I continued my creative practice throughout, as well as keeping me sane, it inspired some deep reflective thinking on my place in the world.  The initial spark was in the summer of 2020 during the Black Lives Matter protests in Oakland. As a black woman, I felt it was important to join millions around the world in raising (at least) our voices against police brutality and the continued inequities of all minorities.  I took to the streets armed with my painting supplies and painted 2 protest murals in downtown Oakland with the help of many wonderful passionate and creative friends. Following this, my proposal to research and develop a workshop on social justice was chosen by the artist in residence committee at Esalen.During this residency nature inspired me to broaden my scope of thinking, and the intersection of social justice and climate change became more clear, acknowledging the biggest challenge we are all facing as a species.  Rather than sink into hopelessness I have chosen to bring this issue to life with colour and magic, in an attempt to keep the spirit of positive energy in our minds eye and in our hearts. Love, joy and community are strong medicine.  My visual expression of this journey comes to fruition in my next solo exhibition of paintings at the Compound Gallery in Oakland. - Sharon Virtue

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