Art is at the Frontline of Cathy Fitzgerald’s Fight

The Hollywood Forest in County Carlow, Ireland is a source of quality timber and an inspiration for an artistic couple and their network of collaborators. “We are discipline-jumpers,” New Zealand-born Cathy Fitzgerald says of her work, and the related work of her husband Martin Lyttle. The Irish Times reports.

You could stick labels like “scientist”, “artist” and “activist” and then some on both Fitzgerald and Lyttle, but no single category would capture the range of their projects.

Fitzgerald says their multifaceted approaches have evolved more or less spontaneously. And she now believes this kind of plural perspective is essential for all of us. “To confront the challenges facing us in our relationship with the environment we need to harness many ways of looking at the world.”

She argues in particular that our society needs artists at the table as much as scientists, citizens and activists to cope with the climate and biodiversity crises.

She also says that artists, and perhaps particularly funders like the Arts Council, need to radically change their perspectives and practice.

The project that brings all the couple’s concerns together is, literally, on their doorstep. The Hollywood Forest in Co Carlow is a 1980s Sitka spruce plantation that they have been converting into a mixed woodland for more than a decade. It is a source both of high-quality timber and of inspiration for the couple and their extensive network of collaborators. It’s both an artwork in progress in itself, and the object of many artworks.

It’s also the living subject of Fitzgerald’s very untypical PhD thesis, which in turn spawned her kaleidoscopic eBook, The Hollywood Forest Story. This rich, provocative book looks at the small woodland from a dozen angles, through diverse lenses that scope out global issues from local experience.

Curiously, Fitzgerald grew up with no great passion for either two of the worlds she now moves between and strives to bring together: the arts and environmental activism.

A walk in the woods with Fitzgerald and Lyttle is both uplifting and distressing. Their vision of making the forest more biodiverse, while still extracting timber, has brought them face to face with the painful challenges of doing environmental work under the shadow of rapidly changing climate.

Fitzgerald speaks of the need for “psycho-social support systems” like meditation to help people cope with encountering the complex challenges all efforts at environmental recovery entail in our climate-change era.

“We need to look at the darkness together without going under,” she says.

Original article by Paddy Woodworth, The Irish Times, March 7, 2020.

Photo by Martin Lyttle.

Tags: Cathy Fitzgerald  environmental activism  Irish Times (The)  The Hollywood Forest Story  

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