The new decade has brought with it some unexpected challenges, but those same obstacles have given us an opportunity to focus on reaching out to our online community, and to explore new methods of digital story telling.
At this time when science is critical for our survival and art is necessary for our sanity, the conservation photography of Paul Nicklen and Cristina Mittermeier is the perfect union of these two complementary paradigms. Hilton Asmus Contemporary couldn’t be representing a more inspirational and dedicated pair of humans.
Paul Nicklen is an acclaimed National Geographic photographer, filmmaker, and marine biologist who has spent the last twenty years documenting the natural beauty of our planet in an effort to illustrate the plights of critical species and their fragile ecosystems, while advocating for their protection. As a National Geographic assignment photographer, he is particularly famous for his awe-inspiring images of polar wilderness regions and the unique animals that call these harsh and rugged habitats home. Nicklen’s sensitive and evocative imagery has garnered many of the highest awards given to any photographer in his field, including the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the prestigious World Press Photo for Photojournalism.
Cristina Mittermeier is a marine biologist, photographer, writer, and conservationist. Fifteen years ago, she founded the prestigious International League of Conservation Photographers (ILCP) to provide a platform for photographers covering environmental issues. She primarily specializes in creating images related to ocean conservation and indigenous peoples. Mittermeier is recognized as one of the World’s Top 40 Most Influential Outdoor Photographers, was the recipient of Smithsonian Conservation Photographer of the Year Award in 2010, and was named one of National Geographic’s 2018 Adventurers of the Year. Cristina’s work has appeared in hundreds of publications, including National Geographic Magazine, McLean’s and TIME.
Together, Cristina and Paul founded SeaLegacy in 2014. The goal of this Canadian nonprofit is to “bring together the world’s best photographers, conservationists, scientists, storytellers and strategists to lead a bold new movement to engage one billion people in ocean conservation.” SeaLegacy’s three-pronged approach of leading expeditions, fueling campaigns, and implementing solutions is united by a focus on extraordinary visual storytelling. “I’m fortunate to be able to lead some of the world’s best photographers and film makers to the farthest corners of our oceans,” says Paul. “It’s our job to bring the oceans to you.” SeaLegacy uses its massive media footprint of over six million followers to rally global support for projects that invest in community-centered solutions that help build healthy and abundant marine ecosystems. As Cristina explains, “Extraordinary opportunities exist to restore and sustainably develop our oceans in order to protect them and sustain all life on this planet.”
It’s a privilege for us at Hilton Asmus Contemporary to represent the gorgeous work of this truly visionary team. Paul and Cristina were kind enough to join us earlier this week from their home in Vancouver for the virtual launch of their show at our gallery. It was enlightening to hear firsthand about their mission at SeaLegacy, and a pleasure to get a peak into their exciting and unique lives. Two nights in a row – April 2nd and 3rd – they transported us all over the planet with their stories. Paul closed out the live Instagram feed last night by regaling us with a tale of a Grizzly bear he called Morris who chose to eat his salmon dinner right next to Paul while he sipped on a nightcap. These lively and personal background narratives bring the photos to life.
Once it’s safe to start going back to our regular activities, we can’t wait to invite everyone to come to the gallery and enjoy each one of these stunning images. When you view their photographs, they pull you in and hold your attention, making you yearn to know everything about the subject. The color photos will be a feast for your eyes, while the black and whites will mesmerize you with their details. Each composition is so saturated with life that you’ll swear you can hear the ice crunching under your feet, and feel the humid air of the tropics on your skin.
We have dubbed 2020 our Year of Conservation, and the tireless efforts put forth by Paul and Cristina to protect our priceless natural wonders, embody this theme to perfection. Even though we may currently be apart, their art excels at bringing us together, and reminding us how important it is to value and protect every ecosystem on this beautiful planet we are endlessly lucky to call home.
Written by Alex Rose
Mikhail Larionov’s words to Natalia Goncharova in 1900: “Open your eyes to your eyes” is a sentiment that mirrors the beginning of an artistic collaboration and exquisite love story between what would one day become a husband and wife creative entity. Each with their own road to follow yet passing through all the stages of love that culminate in the lyrical. This is the story of Blake Ward and Boky Hackel-Ward.
Three years ago my gallery had a wonderful exhibition of sculptures by internationally recognized artist, Blake Ward. During that time, I met his partner in life, German-born Boky Hackel. She was not only stunningly beautiful, but a brilliant poet, writer, artist and all around gorgeous soul. After the opening, Blake and Boky told me the story of how they began working together and how Blake's publicist at the time was opposed to Blake giving Boky any credit for the work she had done on the creation of his sculptures. It was too late to change the direction of our exhibition as we had already sent out press releases and BMO Harris was the sponsor of the exhibition along with the Canadian Consulate. In the end, the exhibition was a resounding success.
Now, three years later, we have invited Blake to return for a second exhibition in our gallery. But this time he comes with his partner, co-creator and new wife, Boky Hackel Ward. We are thrilled to feature Boky as Blake's collaborator and artistic partner of this beautiful collection of inspiring angels, phantoms, ushabtis and modern sculptures. Below is some history on how Blake and Boky came to be.
German-born Boky Hackel began life as a conceptual artist, restorer of Old Master paintings, photographer, musician, writer and poet. As a conceptualist and a polyglot, language had always been extremely important in her work. Although Blake Ward's name is well known in the art world, it was not known that Boky Hackel-Ward was in the shadows as Blake's artistic partner. In 2015, when Blake made an announcement that he and Boky were co-creators, his publicist relentlessly convinced him that Boky's name be kept out of the press and public because "it would hurt Blake's career."
In 2015 Blake and Boky exhibited in Monaco at the Grimaldi Forum when the Monaco Matin ran a story featuring their love story and their work. It was an artistic collaboration made in heaven, they wrote. On Valentine’s Day 2015, at the vernissage of Blake’s exhibition at the Canadian Sculpture Society, Blake publicly announced that the new work presented was not his alone but a result of his collaboration with Boky.
Immediately, the publicist called an urgent meeting where he strongly discouraged Blake from telling anyone about the collaboration. There were many arguments while their representative in Canada backed the publicist 100%. They relentlessly tried to dissuade Blake from following his instinct and ethics. Boky’s contribution they said should be to continue ghost writing his blogs every three days, but no mention or credit should be given to her artistic collaboration with Blake.
In short time, Blake fired the publicist. He gave Boky credit not only for her writing but also for her creative contributions. Although the damage to their artistic synergy was serious, their love, respect and devotion to one another ran deeper.
Canadian-born Blake Ward was born in Yellowknife in the North West Territories in Canada, In 1985 Blake moved to Paris to study under Cyril Heck with whom he learned traditional techniques of modeling figurative sculpture. When the opportunity arose for Blake to move closer to both his foundry and marble quarry in France and Italy, he opened his current studio in Monte Carlo in 1990.
It was Blake who introduced Boky to sculpture. He asked her to do some gold leafing on some bronze pieces because of her mastery in restoring old master paintings in Italy. This assignment became the catalyst to her development as a sculptor.
“I suppose our collaboration is a result of the love that we have for one another. From the very beginning we have always tried to teach one another and share our knowledge. We each bring different things to the table; the sculpture techniques, the conceptual, the wax and the clay, we share this beautiful life together. Without the art we would be lost!” states Boky.
In March 2013, Blake & Boky began offically working together. Blake taught Boky the techniques he used in building his sculpture and Boky shared with Blake her knowledge and experience as a conceptual artist. The synergy was evident as they began to create together. It quickly turned into an incredible love story.
One day, as Boky returned to the studio after an orchestra rehearsal, she found Blake holding up a sculpture that the she had built in the style of his work. He looked at her and said, “Sign it….there is nothing I can do to make it better.” The sculpture was an Ushabti (a funerary figurine used in ancient Egypt) Boky had named “Hathor - Goddess of Love." In ancient Egyptian mythology, Hathor is also the goddess of beauty, music, dance, joy, motherhood but best known as the goddess of love. She was also considered the protective goddess of women. Perhaps Boky created Hathor as a way of protecting herself after she was negated so strongly by the "good ole boy" publicist.
Blake created an inner structure for it, built a dream catcher and ultimately, they both signed the piece. From that point on, they worked incessantly, creating well over 20 sculptures per year. "Hathor" along with her sister sculpture "Hetheru" will be on display.
After much soul searching, today Blake and Boky are married and working together in perfect synergy. They work in harmony in the studio and in their foundries in Italy, France and Canada. His work, her work, and their work… They are two separate artists but sometimes one plus one makes for an even stronger one.
Blake has thrown himself into the digital world of Z-brush and 3D printing, mixing the digital with the analogue, the state of the art with the ancient lost wax techniques. Boky's collection of Figurative Poetry is about making the hurt subside. It is what Blake calls Intentional Art, art with a purpose; it is about healing.
While building on the techniques of figurative sculpture lost in antiquity, Blake remains true to their representational qualities, yet his sculptures are a transgression of the rules, crossing over into the abstract and ethereal realms of our inner worlds. His 1/4 life-size, partial figures materialize before us. Both seductive and tragic, their perfect proportions reflect the hidden perspectives of our human condition. The textured exterior surface alludes to the complexity of our individuality. The open, exposed interior elicits introspection. Holding fast to his love of the human figure, Ward leads us toward self-discovery.
Ward received his Fine Arts Degree from the University of Alberta in 1979 and went on to study classical figurative sculpture in Paris until 1990, when he moved to his current studio in Monte Carlo. When he was invited to teach at the University of Hanoi in 2003, Ward began a journey combining art and activism. His work evolved a bold socio-political voice calling out to our humanitarian dreams of justice, truth, and equality and he has been a positive force raising funds and awareness for the eradication of landmines. Blake's works have shown in Monaco, England, Germany, Italy, Singapore, Hong Kong, India, The United States, and Canada including many public installations in the principality of Monaco, where he and Boky currently reside, including Princess Grace’s Rose Garden. The work is in the private collections of Prince Albert of Monaco, Herb Alpert, Gerry Moss among others.
"Somewhere Within" will be the first time that Blake Ward and Boky Hackel-Ward will be showing together in the United States as co-creators.
“SOMEWHERE WITHIN” runs from Thursday, May 23, 2019 thru June 12, 2019.
HILTON ASMUS CONTEMPORARY • 716 N. Wells Chicago • 312.852.8200 or email@example.com
We, at Hilton | Asmus, are committed to making a difference in the world by supporting artists, entrepreneurs, visionaries and organizations that are doing the work to make our planet a safer and healthier place to live. Whether it is bringing awareness about issues affecting our environment, human rights or animal rights, we are there!
On Friday, June 29th, we are excited to host a fundraiser in our gallery to help a dynamic, young millennial to kick off the first year of her not-for-profit called Blue Ring. Alex Rose is not only an entrepreneur, but also the Science Editor for Ocean Geographic Magazine, a professional violinist, a fellow member of the Explorer's Club and a Master Diver with over 700 dives under her belt! She is the quintessential AQUANAUT!
Alex created Blue Ring to offset the damage that we, the inhabitants of our planet, have inadvertently caused. I recently interviewed her for our video series on WomanScape and learned a great deal about what we are doing to our oceans and life on earth.
First, let me begin with something many of you may already know. WITHOUT THE OCEANS, THERE IS NO LIFE. The oceans provide more than half of the oxygen we breathe, the water we drink, food and jobs for billions of people and regulates our climate. Did you know that because 97% of the water on our planet is held by the oceans, almost all the rain that drops on land comes from the ocean? According to the American Museum of Natural History, "The ocean acts as a global climate control system: it regulates the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere by absorbing, storing and releasing the greenhouse gas in a variety of ways and places, thereby affecting Earth's climate. In fact, the ocean is an enormous storehouse for carbon, containing 50 times more than the atmosphere."
Not only that, but did you know that in the last 50 years we have decimated nearly 90% of all the large fish in our oceans? Scientists estimate that the remaining 10% will disappear by the year 2049 because of overfishing and plastic pollution. If we don't change the way we live, eat, fish and discard our refuse, that gives us about 30 more years to enjoy the taste of Bluefin Tuna, not to mention the declining numbers of blue whales, various species of sea turtles, sea lions, hammerhead sharks, dolphins and other beautiful aquatic sea creatures. On a side note, over 100 million sharks are killed each year for shark fin soup alone that people in Asian countries like to use as a symbol of their wealth (similar to killing elephants or rhinos for their tusks.) I don't necessarily want to be face to face with Jaws, but seriously, this horrible "shark finning" industry catches sharks, cuts off their fins and throws them back in the water to die. Who is better? The sharks or evolved humans?
And then we come to the dire issue of single use plastics which have decimated our oceans and our health, and I'm not even talking about the sea animals that are affected by consuming plastic bottle caps, straws, and micro-plastics. National Geographic Magazine recently dedicated an entire issue to the problem. There are many different types of plastic, but in all, most plastics will take 500 to 1000 years to decompose. Then there are photo-degradable plastics.
Photo-degradable means that the chemicals, when exposed to sunlight, will break down into smaller and smaller pieces and turn into micro-plastics. This is great, except that even the plankton are now eating micro-plastics. And we are eating the fish that are eating the plankton. Now, nearly every time we eat fish, WE ARE EATING PLASTIC! When these photo-degradable products eventually decompose, they release toxins such as the BPA that we don't want in our canned foods. And that's another problem we have to deal with. People often confuse Photodegradable with Biodegradable. When biodegradable products break down, they CAN be ingested by small organisms in the metabolic cycle - which means it's healthy for them AND for us. When photo-degradable products break down, they are toxic!
Below are a few staggering statistics courtesy of National Geographic:
• 18 billions pounds of plastic end up in our oceans each year- that's the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline
• In the U.S. alone, 500 millions straws are used and discarded a day
• 40 percent of plastic produced is packaging, used just once and then discarded.
• Shoppers in the United States use almost one plastic bag per resident per day. Shoppers in Denmark use an average of four plastic bags a year.
• Plastic recycling rates are highest in Europe at 30 percent
• China’s rate is 25 percent
• The United States recycles just 9 percent of its plastic trash
• Nearly a million plastic beverage bottles
are sold every minute around the world.
• In 2015, Americans purchased about 346 bottles
per person—111 billion plastic beverage bottles in all.
• About 8 percent of the world’s oil production is used to make plastic
and power the manufacturing of it. That figure is projected to rise to 20 percent by 2050
So what is the solution to this ever growing problem we created?
There are many wonderful people all over the world doing the work that we should all be doing as a team. THE HUMAN TEAM. So where do we begin? Below are a few things you can do as an individual:
1. When you got to a restaurant or takeout place, refuse the straw they put into your plastic cup or your glass. Learn to drink without a straw. OR, buy a stainless steel straw courtesy of BLUE RING that you can carry in your purse or your pocket. Be vocal of the reason why you refused the straw.
2. Don't throw out your plastic bags from the grocery store or plastic containers from the take takeout place or your doggy bag. Re-use them . And when you can't anymore, make sure they are in a recycling bin.
3. Be conscious of your trash! Make sure you recycle anything that is recyclable.
4. Be vocal with your politicians about recycling services in your cities. Require them to care and vote on ecologically sustainable issues.
5. Support your ocean conservation organizations.
Blue Ring is a "Benefit Corporation" that allows people to “marry” the ocean (spelled Mery - as in La Mer) for a membership fee of $25 annually in return for a ring, or other items, made of recycled ocean plastic. These products are geared towards making it easier to #SayNoToPlastics. Each time you choose reusable instead of single-use, you reduce your footprint while helping to keep our waterways clean and our wildlife safe. Blue Rings are hand-crafted out of a lightweight silicone that’s hypo-allergenic, non-toxic, and durable. They also have a variety of products such as stainless steel straws, bamboo cutlery and stainless steel water bottles.
Blue Ring supports, via many small-scale purchases, the funding of globally significant ocean exploration and conservation projects that will positively shape the future.
The first project to be funded are two 1,000-meter, dual classed submersibles. As Alex Rose states, "The reason behind this choice boils down to a single quote: 'In the end we will conserve only what we love; we will love only what we understand; and we will understand only what we are taught.' These submersibles will exist solely for ocean exploration."
We know more about distant planets than we know about our oceans. The grass is not greener somewhere else. It's actually blue. As legendary oceanographer and Time Magazine's "Hero for the Planet" Dr. Sylvia Earle states, "NO BLUE NO GREEN."
We will be doing a Skype call with Dr. Earle to discuss the state of the oceans and what we can do to make a difference on Friday, June 29 at Hilton | Asmus Contemporary. Join us to be part of THE HUMAN TEAM!!!
Thank you all for your support!
Please join us on Friday, June 29 at 7:30 pm and MERY THE OCEAN with us!
BUY YOUR TICKET: SEA CHANGE TICKET
For more information: www.bluering.blue
Listen to my live interview with Alex at www.womanscape.com
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