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Because the Earth Needs a Good...Artist

Artist and educator Mary Ting has been an ardent supporter of Earthjustice and a variety of environmental causes for more than 25 years.

Artist and educator Mary Ting has been an ardent supporter of Earthjustice and a variety of environmental causes for more than 25 years. Artwork and tools on Mary’s desk, above.

Photo courtesy of Mary Ting

This is a guest blog post by Mary Ting. Mary is an NYC-based visual artist working on installations, drawings, sculptures and community projects that reflect on grief, memories and human interactions with nature. She currently teaches at CUNY John Jay College in the studio art department and the Sustainability/Environmental Justice program. Mary is a member of Earthjustice’s Amicus Society, which honors Earthjustice supporters who have given for 25 years or more.

Mary Ting at work.
Mary Ting at work.
Photo courtesy of Florence Neal

I grew up in the time of Smokey the Bear, in the post-awakening of Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, in a house that was a wonder cabinet. Living amid the 100 orchids, the rescued rabbits, birds and cats, and my mom’s microscope slides and specimens, it’s no surprise that I became an artist who loves nature. 

These days, I tend the same garden that I grew up in and seek shade under the old magnolia tree—my childhood friend who never left town. I have traveled in a circle oceans wide and returned home. I am very lucky to be involved with everything I loved as a child. I teach both art and environmental justice at CUNY John Jay College in New York City. This summer I was an artist in residence at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans where I kayaked in the deep bayou. I am also being certified as a Master Composter with the Lower Eastside Ecology Center and studying at the New York Botanical Garden.  

I am deeply disturbed by the environmental crises unfolding all around us. The endless list of man-made damages, polluting consumer crazes and looming extinctions keeps me up at night. But it is also what compels me to reflect, comment, transform and commit to action through my art and my teaching. Below are three examples of artworks I created to raise awareness and promote reflection on environmental issues from colony collapse disorder to recycling.

<em>Toxic Fairytale</em> (detail) is a poisonous brew of wire, plastic beads and tubing, fake nails, rubber, dried flowers and confused and ailing pipe cleaner bees.
Toxic Fairytale (detail) is a poisonous brew of wire, plastic beads and tubing, fake nails, rubber, dried flowers and confused and ailing pipe cleaner bees.
Photo courtesy of Mary Ting

<em>Hospice<em> takes inspiration from Earthjustice Senior Multimedia Producer Chris Jordan-Bloch's photograph of an unhealthy beehive, in the form of soot-covered cut paper.
Hospice takes inspiration from Earthjustice Senior Multimedia Producer Chris Jordan-Bloch's photograph of an unhealthy beehive, in the form of soot-covered cut paper.
Photo courtesy of Mary Ting

Original photo by Chris Jordan-Bloch from the 2015 photo essay.
Original photo by Chris Jordan-Bloch from the 2015 photo essay “The Perfect Crime: What’s Killing All the Bees?”
Chris Jordan-Bloch/Earthjustice

<em>Refuse/Redo</em> was created from discarded fruit and vegetable boxes with collaborators from the Lower Eastside Girls Club for the exhibition “Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mangoes, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Market as Collaborator,” curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful at the Cuchifritos Gallery in New York City.
Refuse/Redo was created from discarded fruit and vegetable boxes with collaborators from the Lower Eastside Girls Club for the exhibition “Lettuce, Artichokes, Red Beets, Mangoes, Broccoli, Honey and Nutmeg: The Essex Market as Collaborator,” curated by Nicolás Dumit Estévez Raful at the Cuchifritos Gallery in New York City.
Photo courtesy of Mary Ting

I made the cardboard monkey sculpture to preside over the box mountain, as it is the Year of the Monkey on the Chinese calendar. While showing the girls how to make the cardboard flowers, bees and butterflies, we discussed the links between our fruits and vegetables and farms, pollinators and pesticides.
I made the cardboard monkey sculpture to preside over the box mountain, as it is the Year of the Monkey on the Chinese calendar. While showing the girls how to make the cardboard flowers, bees and butterflies, we discussed the links between our fruits and vegetables and farms, pollinators and pesticides.
Photo courtesy of Mary Ting

For more images and information on upcoming exhibitions and projects, see: www.maryting.com.

For more information about Earthjustice’s work on pesticides and toxic chemicals, click here.

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