Photo by Shawn Mishak
'Toys and Trinkets'
Strategically scheduled between Earth Day on April 22nd and World Environment Day on June 5th, Jeff Schofield’s “Seasonal Adjustments” opened on May 8th at KINK Contemporary
. This environmental art exhibition, which includes performance, video, sculpture and installation art, will run through June 5th.
With “Seasonal Adjustments,” the Pontiac, Michigan-based artist presents environmentally themed artworks he created over the past four years.
In addition to being an artist, Schofield worked for decades as a sustainable architect specializing in solar designs and clean technology. He has several sustainable design credentials, including LEED AP (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, Accredited Professional).
“The biggest impacts from climate change occur on a seasonal basis,” explains Schofield. “Hurricanes form in the summertime. Flooding occurs during the spring thaw of snow mass in remote landscapes. Wildfires blaze throughout the summer and autumn. These climatic seasons are growing longer every year as global warming increases. Humanity must adapt to these self-imposed changes and adjust our lifestyles to have a habitable future planet.”
With the piece “Toys and Trinkets,” Schofield submerges a somewhat discarded, plastic hodgepodge of items such as kids toys, Nalgene bottles, aerosol cans and storage bins in concrete in tubes, which harden to form a pedestal. The cardboard is removed and discarded and the items are arranged on the ground in a circular pattern in a chromatic way as to reflect the spectrum of the color wheel. This is the same enticing spectrum of bright colors which advertising companies use to stimulate our minds into purchasing these disposable polymers. The unfortunate reality being, however, that these playful gimcrack gewgaws will be around for another 1000 years, long after our attention span and use for them has expired.
“I’m really just saying, that this is the mass production we’re buying into,” says Schofield. “This is what’s creating the pollution. This is the stuff that we waste because I picked it up off of the beach, off of the sidewalk in my neighborhood. It’s beautiful—all of the lovely plastic colors, it’s shiny and bright and happy, but it’s all waste as a matter of fact.”
In another piece, he incorporates debris recovered from Cleveland’s urban cityscape and some from a cleanup day at Edgewater Beach.
He uses a wide range of materials in his work — manmade found objects like the plastics listed above and natural materials such as burnt tree trunks, salvaged barn wood and native plants. He has been pursuing residencies across the country to confront the crises facing our natural world while incorporating materials locally to further immerse the viewer.
In this show, Schofield also presents a portion of his thesis project for his MFA from Cranbrook with a piece called “Family Tree." The work was architecturally gridded and he meticulously hung human hair to reflect the bio-diversity in the human race, including hair from men and women of different backgrounds, different races and representing people from the LGBTQ+ community.
His work is a focused, aggressive, evocative and dramatic portrayal of our impact on the Earth, with one aspect of the show being performative: In the piece “Four Degrees or More,”
Schofield uses mason jars, some filled with organic materials and some with manmade, and places them on a board which lay atop a tilting fulcrum. As he sets the jars on the board it begins to tip, as a metaphor for the tipping of the balance of the environmental scales in nature. As he places more and more jars across either side of the board, the tension heightens until the tipping point is reached and the jars come crashing down, breaking and sometimes spilling their contents across the gallery floor.
It is a dramatic representation of what might happen if, environmentally, we reach the ‘point of no return,’ which some scientists believe is if our planet’s temperature raises by four degrees or more, hence the title of the performance.
“Humanity has a complicated relationship with nature,” says Schofield. “Our activities involve overproduction, mass consumption, pollution and waste, among other things. While we transgress upon natural cycles, nature also retaliates with weather events, wildfires, famines, extinctions and other unintended consequences. Humans also transgress upon our own constructed sites, altering the development of towns and cities, which in turn creates conflicts among ourselves as well as with nature. As an artist I try to express the complexities and contradictions inherent in these absurdities of contemporary life.”