Flood 2.0

Krisanne Baker, Susan Hoffman Fishman, Leslie Sobel
West Gallery: April 28 – June 3, 2023

Opening Reception: Friday, April 28 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Virtual Artist Talk: Friday, May 26, 6:30 pm 

How many of us need water? All of us.

How many of us need the ocean? Same answer.

It is said that every second breath comes from phytoplankton in the ocean. But I say, “As we come from the ocean, and are made of the ocean, then our first breath truly belongs to the ocean.” That is why I’ve dedicated my art and teaching practices to the ocean.

Phytoplankton are the microscopic plants responsible for creating and sustaining a breathable atmosphere on this planet; and for maintaining the chemistry of the ocean which in turn affects our weather, our water, air, land, and all of life’s diversity.

Despite the ocean’s vastness, we have collectively upset its delicate balance into one of acidification and warming. Using art to educate people, especially young people not so set in their ways, gives me hope for this planet. For the past 8 years, I’ve taught about climate change through art and art activism, because no one else seemed to be teaching it.  In my 25 years of teaching, never before have I had students so impassioned, empowered, and empathetic.

What is the significance of one small action? The collective actions of phytoplankton keep the balance of the ocean’s chemistry and our breathable atmosphere. Like those microscopic beings, our collective small actions can be the protection of the vast ocean that governs our weather, our water, our very existence.

How many of us need water? All of us.

How many of us need the ocean? Same answer.

The ocean is the greatest wonder and strength of this blue planet.

It is our heart and lungs; it’s salt sings in our veins.

Through art and science, we learn to care, and protect what gives us life.


Since 2011, I have focused on water in the context of climate change as the subject of my mixed media paintings, installations, and writing. In all of my work, I am portraying how we have impacted our most vital and rapidly depleting resource and how it, in turn, has impacted us.

In 2021, my interest in combining elements of art and science led me to serve as an artist in residence at Planet Labs, a global satellite imaging company based in San Francisco, California. Working with a Planet geologist, I studied the proliferation of sinkholes, a geological phenomenon that is occurring both along the shores of the Dead Sea in Israel and Jordan, and also in Siberia as a result of climate change, extraction and other related factors.

Seen from satellite imagery, the horrifying destruction around the Dead Sea and in Siberia, though highly damaging to the geology of the regions, is intensely beautiful at the same time. To me, the Earth is consciously responding to the damage we have caused to it – the Earth is breaking, but beautifully.

“The Earth is Breaking, Beautifully,” my current series of mixed-media paintings and cyanotype prints based on Planet satellite imagery, represents the first time I have created work using solely a bird’s-eye perspective. Made with acrylic, oil pigment stick, satellite images printed as cyanotypes, and other materials on paper, the paintings portray both macro and micro interpretations of the regions’ geography. Using contrasting viewpoints at the same time allows me to make note of both the widespread destruction caused by human activity and the cell-like, fractal nature of that destruction.

I work on paper rather than canvas because I love its immediacy and because it is made by a process in which water is fundamental. The surfaces of my paintings are highly textured and offer a physicality that emphasizes the tactile nature of the earth itself.  In the tradition of landscape painters, who for centuries have depicted scenes of specific places, sometimes majestic, sometimes more intimate, I am portraying the reality of our contemporary landscapes, which have been dramatically and radically changed by the climate crisis.

My work focuses on climate and water.  I work with scientists, taking their data and incorporating it with mixed media to make emotionally resonant work that helps people connect to intellectually complicated ideas about the environment. I prefer to connect with a place physically if at all possible so that my experience of ground truth can feed my understanding and my emotional relationship with it as well as the data my scientific partners provide.

            Before the COVID-19 pandemic, I would have said climate change is the existential issue of our time. Today I would recast that more broadly—climate change, environmental damage, pollution, profligate overuse of resources, as well as viral outbreaks, are all related to issues of poor human stewardship of our interconnected planet. Our concept of separation lets us distance ourselves from caring for each other, for animals, for plants and for the entire world. As I isolated during the pandemic I found myself ever more thinking about how our distance is an artificial construct that lets us protect ourselves from the consequences of not caring.  So these days I make work about connection, about natural networks and about finding beauty in a time of stress, fear and isolation. My work is rooted in scientific imagery, in my background as a painter and printmaker, as well as being a mother and a lover of the natural world.


About the media

            These works are all mixed media on a variety of scrolls. I use collage, paint, monotype, brush painting and cyanotype in making these often large scale works. Some of the stencils are from photomicrographs that I shoot through a collection of microscopes ranging from 19th century antiques to children’s toys. Others are very high resolution scanning electron micrographs provided by the scientists I work with. My media choices are tied very specifically to the content of these pieces.