Distress of the Polar Bear – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
As one great Furnace flam’d, yet from those flames
No light, but rather darkness visible
Serv’d only to discover sights of woe.. ~ Paradise Lost
These are times of deep woe, in the face of global warming forced by anthropogenic human activity. Climate change is heating up the Arctic faster than anywhere else and sea ice is shrinking 14% per decade. We are pervaded by the sense of certain helplessness, of knowledge that permafrost within the arctic is thawing fast and releasing large volumes of methane and carbon dioxide, which is accelerating climate change and global heating. Human struggles to curb fossil fuel emissions thus far have not effective enough. Disappearing ice impacts on polar bears habitats and food sources, and their survival is being threatened. Can we mitigate in time?
Nature Sees – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
In the tangled haze of wilderness, the creature who remains unseen sees all. It is stuck in the paradox of witnessing deforestation and habitat destruction, yet its own camouflaged voice cannot speak out against injustice. It reminds us of caring for what has been marginalised by our culture. It is through art that the silenced may speak. If we listen without judgement, what can we notice that has been silenced by our consumption of the natural resources of the planet?
Thai Elephants – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
The elephant is the largest mammal on earth, having existing for at least 55 million years – much longer than humans have existed. These creatures command our respect, and throughout history have shaped and inspired cultures throughout the world. Yet hand in hand with this, throughout history, they were manipulated by humans, for instance as war elephants in combat1, or hunted and killed for their ivory tusks2, or forced to migrate due to deforestation and destruction of their habitats – the pattern of their withdrawal over time and space was the reverse image of the expansion and intensification of settlement3. The painting and poem was inspired by the news in 2019 of a tragedy in Khao Yai National Park in Thailand, when a total of 11 wild elephants drowned in a Thai waterfall in 2019, as the herd rushed to save the baby elephant from falling. Elephants are known to be selfless creatures capable of deep emotion. In the early 1900s, around 30 million wild elephants roamed the continent. In Asia there may be fewer than 50,000 elephants remaining, more than half of them in India. In Africa less than 500,000 roam, and most are in southern Africa.
Sanctuary in the Cliffs – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
In conversation with the Guillemots of Berneray. Bernerary is one of the islands in the Outer Hebrides, an archipelago of islands off the west coast of Scotland.
Plight of the Orangutans – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
Inhuman man! curse on thy barb’rous art
And blasted be thy murder-aiming eye;
May never pity soothe thee with a sigh,
Nor ever pleasure glad thy cruel heart!
Go live, poor wanderer of the forest and field!
The bitter little that of life remains:
No more the thickening brakes and verdant plains
To thee shall home, or food, or pastime yield
[On seeing the wounded ~ Robert Burns]
Orangutan populations particularly in Southeast Asia have experienced a sharp decline, due to deforestation, illegal logging and other activities. Orangutans are isolated and vulnerable with few habitation remaining.
Penguin Refugees – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about the things that matter ~ Martin Luther King
How do we find a voice for the voiceless, those whose lives and homes are at peril from a warming planet?
Cries of the Wilderbeest – Oil on Canvas – Omay Lee 2019
Our dreams of wild wildebeest arriving to our tents at night may signal a certain doom. They ask us to awaken from our slumber and to notice the peril, the peril which inflicts both human, beest, insect and plant alike, that peril that singes our hearts and our minds, that obscures our view so that we might not see the destruction of nature, the wildfires of the forests, the planetary warming, the singed earth, the doom that lies in our wake. The wildebeest bravely risk their lives to approach us to warn us of this peril, we the culprits of their loss of home, we the peril that we created. Will we have foresight to listen to their wisdom?