CHARLESTON-BASED artist Mary Edna Fraser comes to One Hundred Miles this Friday to display her artwork and help raise awareness about change.
Fraser’s story is anything but typical—she flies her family’s vintage airplane over the coast and photographs the coastline, then creates a batik print on silk.
“I chose [batik on silk] because it’s atmospheric, like looking out of the plane, and I can roll it up and take it with me,” explains Fraser.
“I always loved photography and I loved being in my family’s plane,” Fraser says. “It’s a 1946 air coupe. I actually began my real life work in Savannah flying with my brother, and a local photographer, Nancy Heffernan, told me I could make a living looking out of airplanes and photographing them and then making art from the photographs. It was then that I coined the name ‘Islands from the Sky.’”
That body of work became SCAD’s first exhibition in 1981.
“We hung it in a gymnasium that was turned into a library and we hung silks from the rafters,” Fraser recalls.
Fraser’s biggest show, though, was “Aerial Inspirations” at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in 1994.
“That’s the biggest audience in the world, ever,” she says. “When I was a young woman, I met Orrin Pilkey [Professor Emeritus of Earth and Ocean Sciences at Duke University], and he did a book called ‘The Beaches are Moving,’ and I asked hid his words could be put with my art. That was 1994 and the beginning of our work together.”
That relationship with Pilkey yielded another book, “Global Climate Change,” with Duke University Press.
“Art can activate people to be involved and interact with climate change,” Fraser says. “[Climate change] is a daunting subject at best, and it’s a tragic subject as well. But like when people are alcoholics, you can’t just pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s the elephant in the room, affecting all our coastal cities. I think it’s really important to talk about it and work with it.”
During her artist talk at One Hundred Miles, Fraser will show the silks she uses to teach about climate change, but she’ll also show some expectations of what our area will look like in the years 2035, 2048, 2050, and 2100.
“It’s pretty grim,” she admits. “Every year because of sea level rise, it just gets a little bit deeper. For instance, in 2050, Tybee on the north end will still be above sea level, but Little Tybee will not be. On LaRoche Avenue, the water will be up to that.”
Fraser has always been passionate about preserving our coastline and raising awareness about climate change.
“If someone says it’s fake news and it’s not real, I’d say, ‘Well, you should go to the Union of Concerned Scientists and look at the science, the reality of it yourself,’” Fraser says. “That’s a big part. What I share a lot is how to be an environmental activist and how to raise consciousness and get your legislators to listen to you. When [Pilkey and I] wrote our book in 2011, not many people believed in climate change. Now, 75% of Americans believe. A lot of it is the educational process.”