One local artist explains how art and nature go hand in hand
Installation artist and associate dean at Zayed University’s college of arts and creative enterprises, Janet Bellotto has long been inspired by the theme of marine life.
When she saw a call for submission to Abu Dhabi Festival’s Art of Nature exhibition, she was drawn like a duck to water.
We chat with Janet to find out why the exhibition, which commemorates the Environment Agency – Abu Dhabi’s (EAD) 20th anniversary, is important for creating awareness and inspiring action.
You obviously have a passion for conservation…
When I saw this call, I was very intrigued because finally there was something that was along my line of interest. I’d also been researching the islands of Abu Dhabi, spending time on Sir Bani Yas, visiting wildlife reserves and looking at the various historical aspects of what’s been happening in the country, so this was great timing.
Explain your work, ‘Edge of the Meadow – Lady of the Sea’…
The installation consists of ten tails of the dugong. I specifically chose ten because ten dugongs die per year in the UAE and they’re usually trapped in fish nets.
I used the pattern of the fish net to create the outline of the tail and I put them in a place that looks like the dugong is going below the surface: the tail is up in the air like you usually see when these types of animals are diving down.
Edge of the Meadow refers to their seagrass environment, which is also in a vulnerable state, because they can’t be sustained unless those seagrass meadows are there.[The tails] are made out of clear acrylic to give this sense of fragility so you see it’s there but it’s also disappearing a bit behind this blue background to create this optical idea of the water.
There’s a lot of symbolism. What’s your primary message?
I tapped into the mythology of the dugong because…their story is a lot about how they were thought to be mermaids, so using that shape of the tail refers to that, and again this disappearance of the actual animal was the other important message that I wanted to get across.
Using the pattern of the net, referring back to what is the main cause of their vulnerability, was important and hopefully to make people think about what’s happening in our environment.
Overall, with my work and the exhibition as a whole, I hope people will start looking into these issues and think ‘I shouldn’t throw things into the water like plastic’. Why is the exhibition important?
Using art to look at issues in the environment is a great way to discuss these issues. I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the issues that are happening around them in the UAE.
The dugong, for example, is in a vulnerable state and EAD has been doing a lot to protect these animals and others.
I think it’s an active way to engage the public. Art is always looking at things in the world and bringing some kind of message across. Of course art has so many roles that have been played and that artists have used.
It goes across languages; the visual can speak a lot, so using this as a way to talk about this issue is a great opportunity to engage.
What do you think of the exhibition as a whole?
The selection of artists that has been brought together works really well. Each work is very unique in its approach. What’s great too is that you have some works that are a bit interactive, and you have the animation works, so there are various things and I think that’s great because it will engage different people.