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Problem — Based
Climate (Anxiety) Crisis, Abigail Hodges

Our cover page needed to reflect our design aesthetic, inspire dialogue about climate change, and represent an artist we believe in.

Alicja Hagopian, Fall 2022
Image cover used for AAV Issue #02 paper mag.

Every page of An Artist’s Vision has been carefully curated to combine information with a stimulating visual experience. Perhaps the most important page of all is the cover: it needs to reflect our design aesthetic, inspire dialogue about climate change, and represent an artist we believe in. We believe that the unique print we have chosen for our cover encompasses all of these features.  

Our cover features London-based artist Abigail Hodges who has exhibited at art fairs including Chelsea Art Show, has a print in Vogue House, and recently designed a cover for Michael Diamond’s electronic jazz album. The cover image comes from the print series ‘Boiling Point’, conceptualised at a breaking point of frustration during the heatwaves that swept across the UK this summer. ‘Boiling Point’ explores the intersection of mental health and climate change, and an attempt to take control of a situation which feels powerless. Hodges’ intention is “to create actionable artwork: art that inspires you into action, rather than scaring you into looking away”. 

The swirling technicolour prints are striking and complex, but they are also familiar. Hodges was directly inspired by the images of heat maps which had been burned into her brain after months of media coverage and building climate anxiety. Throughout the process these prints turned into mental maps, with vibrant colours representing the amalgamation of intense emotions— guilt, frustration, anger — that were overwhelming the artist. The result is a series of images which recall in the viewer a feeling of alarm and perhaps even loss which cannot quite be placed. Hodges chose to print the Boiling Point series on fabric because “it interacts with the wind or with the sun, it is something physical… it gives validity to that abstract sense of [climate] anxiety”.

We often hear the broad term climate anxiety, but what does it actually mean? The answer is different for everyone. On one level, it is a shared societal experience in the 21st century, which Hodges describes as “a constant undercurrent to all of our lives”. We are inundated with coverage of human disasters and doomsday predictions for the planet which are not equally met with positive action and investment into sustainable solutions. Faced with a seemingly mammoth-scale crisis, people everywhere begin to experience feelings of helplessness, ignorance and defeat. On a more individual level, many people are feeling and indeed suffering from the effects of climate change as we speak: whether that be homes destroyed by tsunamis in Tonga, or 8750 farm workers losing their jobs due to drought in California. Climate anxiety can take different forms for everyone, but the unfortunate reality is that many individuals are either already experiencing real life adjustments from climate change or living in fear of what is to come.

Mental health is often neglected in these discussions about climate change, although a recent report by the World Health Organisation shows that the two issues should be considered in tandem. Neurodiverse individuals of all backgrounds may struggle more with shifts in the natural environment and the added pressure of climate anxiety, both of which can exacerbate pre-existing symptoms. This is what Hodges discovered when temperatures surpassed 40C in London this August, a record high in a city which sorely lacks warm-climate infrastructure. Hodges was diagnosed with dyspraxia as a child, something which informs her art and her perspective on the world; “things that come naturally to everyone else come a little harder, make life a little more overwhelming and tiring”. Though varying in individual cases, dyspraxia tends to affect motor control and increase sensitivity to one’s environment, both of which can lead to higher sensations of powerlessness and exasperation. For Hodges in particular, the heatwave made it increasingly difficult to focus on her art and led her to feel trapped inside her apartment and her body.

Eventually, Hodges reached both a physical and mental ‘Boiling Point’: she expelled her frustrations in a burst of creativity, producing a physical manifestation of her internal reality through her print series. “I wanted to understand and respond to my feelings, rather than being frozen by them”. The process was cathartic, even natural, because art is created in response to lived experience: “for me it really feels authentic to create art about the climate, and the tension I feel between myself and the environment”. Yet Hodges is not the only one who feels this way. She has been working with mental health charity Mind, who have found that people suffering with dyspraxia and other cognitive sensitivities are often able to reduce stress by engaging in physical creativity, allowing them to gain a sense of autonomy against feelings of powerlessness. Ultimately, Hodges believes that “experiential artwork is a way to escape pain: throwing yourself into something fully and being immersed”.

This is one reason why art is an essential and multifunctional resource: it can be visually pleasing and bring comfort, it can tell important stories and raise awareness, and it can also be a non-verbal outlet for emotions which is accessible to anyone. At An Artist’s Vision we believe that art should be intersectional, both in terms of who makes it and how it is analysed. We also believe that discussions around sustainability should endeavour to include all groups and perspectives— solutions which benefit some while neglecting others will only perpetuate the existing inequalities and behaviours which have contributed to climate change in the first place. We truly hope to build an inclusive community at AAV which makes space for different voices and empowers readers to take action against climate change through educated consumption, supporting sustainable developments, and advocacy. If you want to be part of our community, follow us on @aavmagazine — we would love to hear from you.