‘Disappearing Frogs Project’ raises awareness, rallies community

Frogs“There are many ways to measure what’s happening to our environment,” said Jan Valder Offerman, one of more than 150 guests who attended the recent opening reception for the “Disappearing Frogs Project.”

“But frogs are concrete, tangible,” she added.

Headlined and curated by artist Terry Thirion, the “Disappearing Frogs Project” is a multi-media exhibit featuring 100 artists’ work that illustrates the scientifically proven but little known fact: frogs are on the brink of mass extinction.

“Amphibians absorb water easily through their skin, which makes them sensitive to change,” said 15-year old Rachel Hopkins, an environmental activist who attended the opening and is working with Thirion to bring a version of the “Disappearing Frogs Project” to the Raleigh-Durham area where she lives. “Now a third of the total frog population is in decline,” she added.

The exhibition will be on display until Saturday, Feb. 22, at the Charlotte Art League located at 1517 Camden Road in SouthEnd.  Entrance to the exhibition is free, but donations are accepted.  Proceeds from the exhibition will bring the “Disappearing Frogs Project” exhibit to other communities.  Find more information at www.terrythirion.com/disappearing-frogs-project/.

The “Disappearing Frogs Project” includes solo work from Thirion.  Originally from Belgium, Thirion attended the Parmentier School of Design in Brussels and an arts academy in Leuven, Belgium.  Today she works out of her Hot Springs, N.C., studio and uses multiple mediums in a variety of styles.  She started painting frogs shortly after reading about how they are affected by atrazine, a common herbicide that causes hormonal changes in amphibians.

“The chemical turns male frogs into hermaphrodites,” said Thirion, citing a study performed by Dr. Tyrone Hayes, a biologist at University of California, Berkeley.

Pollution is one of several issues negatively impacting frogs: parasitic flukes cause developmental abnormalities and extra limbs; the chytrid fungus causes chytridiomycosis, lethal to frogs; manmade noise pollution clouds the frogs mating call.

“That really upset me,” Thirion said.  “I decided I needed to do more than paint pretty pictures; I needed to make an impact in the world.”  Her art and advocacy merged into the “Disappearing Frogs Project.”

In an effort to expand awareness, Thirion contacted other artists, sharing the mission of the exhibition and asking them to create a thematically related piece to donate.

Their response was generous and diverse, with more than 200 donations from Chicago to Charlotte, and from as far away as Canada and Belgium.  The exhibit includes watercolor from artists Sandra Gray, oil paintings by Cora Ciaffone, photography from Mitchell Kearney, origami from Ryan Streater, collage by Barbara Curry, pen and ink drawings from Terri Otten and Joe Severino and

While most of the work in the “Disappearing Frogs Project” depicts frogs, some artists tackled the assignment more conceptually.

Cordelia Williams created photograms, special photographic prints made in the darkroom.  She placed rubber frogs and leaves on photosensitive paper, exposed it and developed it “the old fashioned way.”  The ghostly images remind Thirion of embryos.

Sculptor and kinetic artist Kit Kube contributed a hands-on piece called “Circumstantial Caress,” a spinning disc filled with purple liquid and one air bubble.  When spun, the bubble appears but dissipates as the motion slows.

“How far are we going to push it?” asked Kube, challenging exhibit-goers to think about the long-term impact of caring for the environment.  “How lonely can you be?”

“Frogs are bioindicators; their extinction is a warning,” explained young Hopkins, who is responsible for North Carolina’s declaration of both a state frog and state salamander.

“The exhibit shows our imprint and how much of an impact we have on the earth,” said Thirion, who believes art can generate awareness and action.  “I want people to become their own stewards, and think of this issue as their responsibility.”


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