By Cynthia Hibbard
As if on cue, major climate events coalesced for the opening weekend of Dawn Endean’s show: “Deluge”.
Hurricane Hermine pummeled the northern Gulf Coast and President Obama headed into his last G-20 summit with a climate change legacy on his mind and spoke out about the flood devastation he witnessed on the eroded coastline of the American Arctic—to say nothing of the aftermath of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. It even rained in Seattle.
All of this is basically Endean’s point. The watery threats of climate change, her frustration with climate deniers and the prevalence of flood mythology from many cultures that she discovered all percolated in her mind as she worked in her Seattle studio last winter, one of the rainiest on record, and wondered what the world was coming to.
“I found myself consistently drawing images of water, empty lifeboats and battered and roofless structures,” she says. “I revisited the stories of Noah and Gilgamesh and discovered that the flood story is present in many other cultures as well.”
Endean turned her drawings into hundreds of intaglio images printed on Japanese paper from shellac plates and sheets of acetate. These she collaged onto monotypes made from wood and other shellac plates. The “post human” narratives she created feature empty rowboats, roofless shelters, alarming red roots growing out of some of the structures, and massive precipitation in all its forms—as if the ravages of climate change in the end drowned the whole world.
Proficient in shellac plate printing, Endean teaches the process at Pratt Fine Arts Center in beginning and intermediate printmaking classes. “I love etching and I love intaglio,” she says. In particular she appreciates the surprising ways that lines form on brittle shellac plates excised with etching tools. “It enforces a kind of looseness that doesn’t let you be really precise and controlling. It has something to say itself,” she explains. The effect lends itself well to the parables in her water series.
The roofless shelters on long spindly legs that dominate many of the prints serve as metaphors for the futility of mankind’s efforts, to date, to curb impending climate disasters.
She also weaves in two flood myths from the Hindu and Greek cultures into several pieces: “And the “People Became Fishes” and a series of four prints “Deukalion and Pyrrha I-IV.” In these and virtually all of the many flood myths she uncovered from throughout the ages, she found similar plotlines—a vengeful God or gods send down a great flood to punish peoples’ foolishness and wickedness.
The flood mythology Endean tapped into will carry her onto a future project as well. She wants to explore and illustrate in more detail the myths that foretold today’s climate crisis. As she notes: “Are we due for a metaphorical or meteorological deluge? The tragedy would be ours but the planet would carry on without us.”