without maps or manifest by Christopher Reiger
Watercolor, gouache, sumi ink and marker
on Arches paper. 32 x 27 inches. 2009.
Animal imagery dominates my paintings, drawings, and photographs, but the work can not be described as traditional wildlife art. Instead, I think of the pictures as the observations of a naturalist working at the intersection of fact and fancy.
without maps or manifest is at once a cautionary and celebratory image, an nod to our species' environmental missteps and excesses but also an ode to the human capacity for wonder and invention. Rachel Carson's clarion call for environmental responsibility introduced many people to the ethical obligations we have as "wise apes" in this interdependent world, in some respects providing us with a better environmental map, if you will. Fifty years later, we're still impacting the world in deleterious ways, but our environmental awareness continues to mature and evolve.
Contemporary artists with a vested interest in ecology and conservation must wrestle with a difficult question. How can our artworks, objects traded in a luxury market, exist in accord with a hopeful ideology? More specifically, how can we earn a living and connect our art to progressive efforts we champion? In the fall of 2008, I decided to contribute a significant percentage of every art sale to non-profit organizations that are working to redress environmental and social ails. By generating money for important causes through the sale of my artwork, I can act in proxy; the long hours in the studio can be connected to the spirit of the art and to the greater community. This charitable sales model is a concrete metaphor for the emotional and intellectual sustenance provided by the artwork itself.