Sunday, March 24, 2024

A-BON 2024: Beaver Tales

(Photography by Marina Barbosa Santos/courtesy A-BON)

One of the highest points of the academic year was a fun presentation to a conference of the Arctic Beaver Observation Network. Aside from providing comic relief, I managed to encapsulate, using Castor Canadensis cartoons, my career in both arts & education to a group of international scientists + Native folks from communities across Alaska, Canada and the UK.

The 3-day long event (here’s a link to an excellent summary) took place on the scenic top floor of the Akasofu building , a crown jewel of the International Arctic Research Center of the UAF Geophysical Institute. The organizer, Professor Ken Tape, is an ecologist who studies the northward expansion of beavers and their effects on the tundra. One example is when they dam in an area it floods and thaws the permafrost, hastening the effects of climate change.

(Photography by Marina Barbosa Santos/courtesy A-BON)

We met first during the summer of my show at Ester’s new, seasonal cafĂ© Flossie & Mays. Fittingly enough the bulk of the “Colony” exhibit was used as a backdrop in the main conference room, and at the close of my talk anyone who wanted to take one off the walls home with them could get the print signed and personalized. It was a really humbling experience with some new friends and fans.

(Photography by Marina Barbosa Santos/courtesy A-BON)

My opening line was to “bring STEAM into your STEM,” and through the use of humorous imagery I hoped to illustrate another side of Castor Canadensis – not of a tasty, furbearing pest, but a creature that is a perfect metaphor for how groups of animals can live in balance with the environment. In other words, while the expansion of their range is a symptom of global warming, they’re not the animal that’s at fault for creating this planetary disaster.

Bonus: Of special note was getting to show some work by an amazing local artist + acknowledge Troth Yeddha’ with another three-eyed beaver design by Navonne Benally (@menabashmedia) who I had just met setting up at the 50th annual Festival of Native Arts a few days earlier.

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