“Annihilate” brings environmental awareness to Washburn campus

Annihilate: Carley Nelson’s senior art show focuses on the annihilation of the world as we know it, caused by poor care for the environment. Annihilate opened December 6, 2021 and will remain open until January 17, 2022.

Art education senior Carley Nelson brings a powerful message to Washburn through her art show titled “Annihilate”. Annihilate, the senior art show that Carley Nelson, art education senior, brings to Washburn bears a powerful message. Annihilate centers around the theme of environmental ruin. Ocean life especially is eerily close to being replaced by plastic and trash, from turtles mistaking trash bags floating in the current as a jellyfish-shaped snack, to the projection that by 2050 the amount of trash in the ocean will steeply outgrow that of marine life in terms of weight according to research by Future Agenda. Nelson shared that her show is an effort to spread light on the climate crisis and how we, as humans, have hurt the world and how we can help it.

Using both floors of the Art Building, neighbor of the Student Recreation and Wellness Center, Annihilate and all featured artworks were set up and ready for viewers on December 6, 2021, and will remain until January 18, 2022.

The highlight of the show is SMACK, a cluster of suspended jellyfish with painted and textured ceramic hoods and tentacles constructed from long ribbons of plastic grocery bags. The mediums are a purposeful comparison between the renewable quality of ceramics and the unsustainable plastic bags.

“The technical term for a group of jellyfish is ‘Smack.’ So, in groups of 100,000 or more, it is a ‘smack,’ and then in groups smaller than that it is called a bloom.” Nelson said “I used smack because I wanted it to be very overwhelming.”

The focus on jellyfish in her show is inspired by Nelson’s experience at the beach in 2016, during which she was appalled by the sheer amount of trash left on the shore, and while trying to pick up some, if even just a few pieces. While doing so she mistook a beached jellyfish for a trash bag, in the exact same way turtles commonly mistake a grocery bag for a jellyfish and end up eating the indigestible trash.

Another piece of art featured in her show is a handbound book, with pages that alternate between pieces of plastic bags and recycled paper, handmade by Nelson. The cover of the book is textured as if it has been weathered by the ocean, with little algae growths and barnacles attached. Similar to the composition of the smack, the mismatched mediums chosen for this book reflect the theme of the unsustainable mode our society is functioning in.

“In 25 Years…” depicts 5 fish, each in a separate stage of metamorphosis, and uses a clever comparison between the shape of the fish and a plastic water bottle as each fish moves further in metamorphosis, and is replaced with more and more pieces of water bottles. This piece was made to fit the theme, “metamorphosis through the arts” from the North Topeka Arts Connect Gallery next month.

“I was challenged by my professor to think about something that is a metamorphosis; that is transformation; that is change. And because of my senior show, I immediately go straight into thinking, how can I make this environmental?” Nelson said.

Nelson’s photography prints, titled, “Introspective” are unfortunately overlooked by a lot of viewers, according to Nelson. She explains that she explored the concept of memory through her photography; the landscapes captured in her prints might just be a memory one day.

“We have things and we lose them, and we take them for granted and we don’t know when we’re going to lose them until we do. And then, we realize we took them for granted.” Nelson said.

Nelson can be found on instagram with the username @carleyn.creates, and has a facebook group to share the updates on her show: Carley Nelson Senior Exhibition Updates. If you were intrigued by the highlights you can stop by the Art Building in person and enjoy the entire show and all of the art pieces featured there.

Edited by: Simran Shrestha, Kyle Manthe