Last fall I traveled to New Jersey to see my friend Joy Kreves and her solo eco-art show, Translating Nature, at Rider University Art Gallery. Joy has been a transforming influence in my life since high school (I credit her with introducing me to two life-long passions—vegetarianism and Transcendental Meditation), so this trip was a chance to reconnect and renew our friendship. It also was a chance to see firsthand the profound and provocative art Joy creates.
The focal piece of the exhibition was a breathtaking 24-foot-long mixed media piece called Solastalgia. Coined by the Australian philosopher Glenn Albrecht in 2003, solastalgia is “the kind of melancholia or homesickness you have when you remain locked in your home environment while all around you, your home environment is being desolated in ways that you cannot control.”
Since the exhibition, I have been thinking a lot about my own solastalgia, which hit me most strongly when I was a teenager growing up in the western suburbs of Chicago (which is also where I first met Joy). I lived five miles from town in a climax oak forest, but at that time our idyllic rural world was being swallowed up by rampant development, which threatened the oak trees and replaced farms, forests, and horse pastures with houses and shopping strips. I spent a lot of time biking down country roads and wishing that it could all stay pristine and untouched by man. I even made a short film on this theme, in which the leading actor (played by my pretty sister) was trapped in a parking lot of cars and finally escaped to a beautiful meadow. I could have named that film “Solastalgia” but I didn’t know about that word until I attended Joy’s show.
For Joy—who walks daily beside the Delaware River with her dog, Buffy—her beloved river (which is currently being destroyed by gas drilling operations) is a symbol of solastalgia and a source of inspiration for her art. Using found objects from the river, such as branches, stones, leaves and moss—combined with natural yarns, ceramics and watercolor paintings—Joy makes a sweeping statement of the fragile beauty of nature and her personal connection to it.
“I recognize more and more how precious our natural environment is, and how it colors and shapes our life,” Joy says. “How people see and what they see is colored and clouded by their memories and their internal narrative. I am trying to translate my experiences of nature into a layered and materially inclusive language. I hope that my translation meets the viewer in an integrated way so as to awaken in them the gratitude that I feel for these rich connections to nature.”
I was amazed at the number of original works that Joy created in the few months leading up to the exhibition, which filled two spacious rooms. I also was inspired by the variety of media she uses, including ceramics, fur, yarn, painting, sculpture, poetry and found objects from nature.
Joy is also interested in the relationship between quantum physics, consciousness and art, which she explores in her blog, Little Bang Theories. My all-timefavorite piece of hers is “Electron Madness,” which includes a whimsical internal dialogue between herself and electrons.
Thank you, Joy, for thinking deeply about the things that matter and for creating such beauty for my life personally and for everyone who views your work.