Works by Debra Claffey, Patricia M. Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman and Charyl Weissbach

September 7 - October 19, 2023

Opening Reception:  
Thursday, September 14, from 6 to 8 p.m. 

Gallery Talk:  
Thursday, September 14, from 4 to 5 p.m. 

Gallery Hours:  
Monday - Thursday: 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.  
Friday: 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

As a philosophical and spiritual concept, the idea of the interconnectedness of all things suggests that everything in the universe is connected in some way. From the intricate ecosystems of nature to the complex networks of human society, this notion manifests in profound and multifaceted ways. Not only does this remind us that the singularity of our individual selves is informed and defined by connections, it is through these connections that realities are shaped and reinforced.

Because each of us, our bodily presence, our thoughts and actions, our perceptions of reality, our knowledge, our relationships, the natural world, the social systems we’ve created, all of human experience, are intrinsically linked; interdependent upon each other. From the microscopic to the macroscopic, from the individual to the collective, every entity, phenomenon, and concept forms a complex web of interdependence.

By recognizing this concept, we can better understand the intricate relationships that exist between different aspects of the world, and we can appreciate how our actions and decisions can have far-reaching consequences. We can begin to see how the actions we take in one area can have an impact on the entire ecosystem and the welfare of all the living things within it.

Similarly, this idea can help us to develop a greater sense of empathy and compassion for others. We can recognize that our own well-being is tied to the well-being of others and that we all have a responsibility to work towards creating a more just and equitable world.

The exhibition Because It Matters, by Elemental is a call to action that explores this concept: our responsibilities toward our environment, our efforts to recognize the fragility of our Earth, and the need to restore balance to preserve it.

Elemental is an exhibit group of four artists, Debra Claffey, Patricia Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman, and Charyl Weissbach, who met in New England Wax (a professional organization of regional artists working in the medium of encaustic). Building on this shared foundation, the group established an artist collective to engage in critical discourse and art practice that address and raise awareness of current issues in contemporary society, particularly the ongoing environmental crises.

Debra Claffey 
I use pattern and repetition to express appreciation and record memories of movement. My paintings—in oil, encaustic, and mixed media—visualize my anxieties, and even mourning. The drawn line is a tracing of my roving eye, following the lively edge of orchid leaf or fern bract. The paintings range in size from modest monotypes to monumental paintings on canvas or paper, incorporating my use of drawing tools and carving or scraping into the surface for an expressive line.

My experience in horticulture offers the plant kingdom as Muse, and it still nurtures me and gets me moving. Using plants as a beginning point for drawing provides innumerable opportunities for direct perception of nature, and a deeper understanding of relationship while also sparking a lively discourse toward making a good and satisfying painting, even when the painting is about loss and mourning.

Patricia M. Gerkin 
The interconnectedness of all living things—humans, animals, birds, trees, plants, fish—is too big and too important to overlook. Regardless of what I paint, there is an element of nature and an awareness of a planet in crisis. People are not so different from all the other living creatures and plants in the world and much could be learned from the natural behaviors of the natural world. It is a classroom, a meditation room, a room where all the best gifts are given, without strings, without conditions, without constraints, just free.

Using paint sticks, encaustic, metal leaf, and disparate materials on various substrates, I challenge viewers to note that space in environmental activism that is as yet uninhabited. My process is intuitive, allowing the materials to lead the way.  My forms and lines are organic, my surfaces deeply textured as if hiding a mystery. Layer upon layer, I strive for a tactile quality and a sense of something beneath the surface. This series reminds us of the ever-rising sea levels, and the melting icebergs, ice floes, and glaciers. Have you ever witnessed the destruction of one Nor’easter on surrounding beaches, seawalls, rip rap, roads, and houses? Increasingly violent weather patterns are causing destruction to be commonplace.

Donna Hamil Talman 
In recent years my attention has been drawn to how we humans affect our planet. My work encompasses paintings, monotypes, and installations, all featuring encaustic which is made from beeswax and tree resin. Using sustainable, non-toxic, and found materials is how I can promote my own commitment to our environment. Early projects were about the land, but my connection to the ocean is strong. Reading about how devastating plastics harm sea animals and plants led me to create art that highlighted the problems regarding this issue.

Highlighting problems, however, became so disheartening that I switched to solutions, particularly biological ones. Viewers' awareness will be increased by seeing art about potential restorative approaches, such as alternatives to plastic packaging and carbon-sequestering sea creatures.

However, no matter how many technological or other approaches might help, we humans need major changes in our behaviors if we want to keep the earth livable. After digging deeper, this reality led me to ask: what makes people change? Only when we take care of the ocean can these natural systems restore the environment. This refocused my work to start engaging its viewers to prompt lasting, positive change. Such projects offer optimism at a time when it is in short supply. They urge us to continue to think creatively about solutions to our most important world issues.

Charyl Weissbach 
Ocean acidification is a deadly threat to marine ecosystems compromising the long-term viability of an estimated one million species that depend on its coral reef habitats.

My paintings draw attention to the acidification of coral reefs within warm expansive oceans. Embedded within multiple layers of wax are stenciled and gilded abstract images of Lyre corals in transition between life and death, demonstrating the perilous effects of climate change. Fortunately, current advances in geoengineering technologies are reducing atmospheric carbon dioxide and the acidity within our oceans. Additionally, the production of temperature resistant corals is well underway.

For more information, please visit or contact the Director of the Grimshaw-Gudewicz Art Gallery Kathleen Hancock, by emailing