Testing the boundaries of sustainability

Submitted by the San Juan Islands Museum of Art.

Perhaps nothing brings home the importance of reusing, repurposing, and recycling more than living on an island. Residents of the San Juans understand this as much as others on isolated islands around the world.

Artist Kevin Christison has taken his deep understanding of our relationship with the environment and created art that powerfully brings the idea of sustainability to new and revolutionary heights.

Working with recycled materials, his exhibition at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art (SJIMA), highlights a process he developed while working on a small island in the Maldives. In 2014, Christison partnered with Soneva Fushi Resort in the Baa Atoll of the Maldives to create a project that would turn the waste bottles from the resort and neighboring islands into “luxury items and meaningful works of art.” Known as the Soneva Glass Program, Christison also created an artist-in-residency program and art exhibition space on the island. After nearly a decade perfecting sustainable energy practices and responsible materials usage, the artist returned to studio work full-time with a “depth of voice and purpose” and a desire to explore boundaries, to artfully test what’s acceptable and what’s forbidden in today’s society.

In the SJIMA exhibition, aptly titled The New FORBIDDEN, Christison experiments with an array of upcycled waste materials, from PET plastics and glass to aluminum, paper, and natural fiber to address such topics as climate change, ethics, social acceptance, the concept of property, personal and communal boundaries, management of natural resources (including waste materials), and the use of sustainable energy.

Christison studied Art History at the University of Oregon and received his BFA in Sculpture from the California College of Arts in 1998. His work has been acquired by the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Di Rosa Center for Contemporary Art, and numerous other public and private collections. In 2002, after receiving a Fullbright Scholarship in Sculpture, the artist relocated his studio space to Bangkok, Thailand where he lectured extensively at universities throughout the country. A major exhibition of his work was held at the Art Centre Gallery of Silpakorn University in Bangkok in early 2003.

The artist travels throughout southeast Asia and regions in the Indian Ocean and returns to the U.S. regularly where he divides his time between the San Francisco Bay area and the San Juans, where his parents live.

The New FORBIDDEN runs through December 5 at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, 540 Spring Street, Friday Harbor WA 98250. The museum is open Friday through Monday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is $10, and members and those 18 and under are admitted free of charge. Monday is Pay As You Can Day.

Sponsors for this exhibit include The Honeywell Charitable Fund, National Endowment for the Arts, Washington State Art Commission, Town of Friday Harbor, San Juan County, friends of Christison, Printonyx, Browne’s Home Center, and Harbor Rental.