Interview with Lindsay Carron
Lindsay Carron's artwork lies at the crossroads of indigenous voice and environmental activism. She travels to remote areas of the planet to document wild lands and human relationship to them. Her intricate ink drawings offer viewers an opportunity to connect to their own wild hearts.
Carron has empowered communities with murals, portraits and arts education in Kenya, Mexico, and Alaska. She is a published illustrator, an artist in residence with US Fish and Wildlife Service, and an activist partnering with California Wolf Center, Apex Protection Project, The Whale Museum of San Juan Island, and Creative Visions Foundation.
Carron received a B.F.A. from Pepperdine University, and lives and works in Los Angeles and Alaska.
The uplifting visuals of Lindsay's work represent the potential for humanity to come together to realize a healthy future for the planet, with all our voices heard.
Intro, by Jess Burnquist:
Kindred Spirits is thrilled to bring you this interview with artist, and environmental activist, Lindsay Carron. We think she is the embodiment of the most beautiful synthesis of art, passion and love for the Earth. Feast your eyes and read on to learn more about Ms. Carron and how such a synthesis came to be.
Kindred Spirits: Please share a bit about yourself, including where you were raised and especially when you became aware of your passion for art and the environment.
I was born and raised in Wisconsin. All four seasons greatly impacted the daily activities of my childhood. We spent fall jumping in piles of leaves and making scarecrows and carving pumpkins; in the winter, we spent time sledding, building igloos and drinking copious amounts of hot chocolate while praying for the next snow day. Jackets came off as soon as the snow began to melt, and spring brought new baby animal discoveries and plenty of rain puddles to jump in. Summer meant night games with neighborhood kids, catching fireflies, camping, fireworks, thunderstorms, bare feet and my favorite of all—long weekends spent up at my grandparents’ cabin in Northern Wisconsin on Yawkey Lake, where we swam, fished and explored the forest. With nature as my refuge, I began taking a sketchbook with me on my explorations around age 10. I’d study the details of a flower and record what was around me with colored pencils in books that became field studies likened to a (young) naturalist. I aimed to draw like Audubon one day. I found that with a sketchbook and pencil in tow, I paid even closer attention to every detail around me, and the reward was in spying a fawn lying in leaves, a frog on the bank of a lake, or a camouflaged caterpillar. Now, after living in Los Angeles for 10 years, I realize that these aspects of my childhood were idyllic, and I cherish how they brought me to an intimate relationship with nature at a young age.
KS: Can you discuss your most recent work in Alaska?
I was invited to Alaska for the first time in 2015 by friends who were launching an adventure tourism company in Juneau. I led painting tours with Adventure Flow. We’d take guests out to a remote beach where I’d help them paint their incredible surroundings. Three months turned into six months, and I was completely taken by Alaska. I ended my stay that year with an art exhibition at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, and a burning passion for wild land. I returned the following summer to illustrate three children’s books with Sealaska Heritage, an Alaska Native organization. I also traveled as an artist in residence with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. We backcountry camped in the refuge and celebrated with the Gwich’in during the Alaska Natives’ biennial Gathering in Arctic Village. I drew portraits and listened to the stories of elders, and created a final artwork that described the intricate and inextricable connection between the people and the Arctic land, used by USFWS for education, inspiration and native relations. I have continued to travel and create as a resident artist with USFWS, visiting the Arctic Coast and Inupiaq village Kaktovik, and the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, the land of the Yup’ik Eskimos. This summer, I’ll return to document the Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge and exhibit my art at the Canvas [an inclusive arts community] in Juneau. I have been completely humbled by my experiences in Alaska—the wild land, the generosity of the people. Its influence permeates everything I create.
KS: Sometimes when considering the toll humans have taken on the environment, when cataloging damage to land and sea, it is easy to feel overwhelmed or as if one person can’t make a difference. Do you ever feel this way? How would you advise others to push through such feelings?
All the time! Yet my experiences have taught me that even through the greatest destruction, life persists. Nature has an incredible way of remaking herself and persevering, just as humans do. My greatest lessons have been from the simplest experiences in nature. For instance, while traveling with a group of artists in Kenya, we hiked outside a remote Maasai village in the middle of the desert. We came upon a field that was literally shimmering in the low sunlight. As we approached, to my horror, the shimmering was coming from the light on thousands of plastic bags caught on branches of shrubs blowing in the wind. So the next morning, we decided to simply start picking up the trash that was all around us on the ground. Within minutes, the kids of the village caught on, and joined in the new fun game of picking up trash with the mzungus. Instead of being solely devastated by the reality, we took action, and it caught on! Home in Los Angeles this week, I rescued a tiny baby bird, still featherless and completely helpless, that had fallen from a nest in high winds. It cracked my heart wide open, put a halt to any other work I may have been doing, and tamed my focus for that night and the following day on the survival of that tiny being. The bird survived, and I was left with the simple lesson that all life matters. So when I feel debilitated from the weight of the devastation of our environments, I remember to simply do the kindest thing in the moment. It doesn’t have to be a big, heroic feat, but sometimes it may be. Environmentalism is not a competition. I learned through both of these experiences to come back to the present moment and the immediate environment and put my skills to work. I use my unique talents and gifts to sing my soul alive. Innately, I begin to see that from this state of being I impact my environment around me in positive ways and begin to see the magic that is present even in the destruction.
KS: Can you discuss the children’s books you have illustrated? What was your process—did your images inform the stories, or did the stories inform your images?
Illustrating the Raven Stories for Sealaska Heritage was a truly special point of my career. The books are part of a large collection of Native tales produced by Sealaska Heritage and sponsored by the Alaska Native Education Program grant from the U.S. Department of Education. These three stories, Raven Brings Us Fire, Origins of Rivers and Streams, and Raven and the Box of Daylight are ancient creation stories based on oral history of the Tlingit people of southeast Alaska and written by Tlingit author Pauline Kookesh Duncan. I received the completed stories, a few guidelines, and some cultural references and was set loose to envision the imagery of these densely woven tales. I was further challenged to learn the art of formline drawing—a traditional technique used by native people of the Pacific Northwest both on totem poles and in their artwork. The result was a weave of my detailed illustrations of characters and settings with formline. I valued deeply what I learned working firsthand with Tlingit people at Sealaska. To me, the books carry a potent essence of southeast Alaska and the people who have called it home for thousands of years, and are enchanting for children and adults alike! The public and educators can purchase the books for the classroom or personal use via the Sealaska Heritage online store.
KS: How would you advise K-12 teachers to merge the arts and the environment in their classrooms?
Throughout my travels, I have learned that stories touch people deeply and connect us across distant lands. I love to bring storytelling into my artwork and my work with youth. In the classroom, I recommend going a step deeper into art creation and imagining further with story. It’s one thing to draw a dragonfly, but a totally different adventure to imagine what that dragonfly’s day has been like, and to then draw that! Engage students’ imaginations through art that evolves into storytelling. For older students, these narratives can involve social and environmental activism through purpose-driven plots and reflective motifs. For example, maybe the dragonfly’s wetland environment is encroached upon by urban sprawl, limiting its ability to reproduce. With this turn in the plot, there is room to imagine the human impact and how to relate to it/take responsibility for it. These stories can be illustrated, acted, filmed or danced into life. As we tell each other these stories and learn the tales of the animals, plants and insects that share this planet with us, we begin to feel more empathy and connection. I have learned from the native communities in Alaska that stories, and the accompanying artwork, have carried lessons for life that have impacted hundreds of generations and entire cultures. Art is a gateway and an access point. It helps us relate to one another and to our surroundings. Art can be a catalyst for change. And with each moment art is used in the classroom, these possibilities are opened.
Tricia Baldes earned a master’s in English from Lehman College and has been a middle level educator since 2001. Her passion for human rights education has led to her writing curriculum and consulting with nonprofit organizations like Creative Visions, Speak Truth to Power and KidsRights. She co-authored the Rock Your World curriculum and currently works with the team as a program coordinator. In addition to presenting at national conferences for NCTE and ACSD, Baldes has led various teacher trainings and programs for students. She teaches eighth-grade English in Westchester County, N.Y.
Jess Burnquist earned her MFA in Creative Writing from Arizona State University. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Time.com, NPR.org, and various online and print journals. She is a recipient of the Joan Frazier Memorial Award for the Arts at ASU and has been honored with a Sylvan Silver Apple Award. She teaches high school English, creative writing and AP Literature in the greater Phoenix metropolitan area and is the Director of Rock Your World. Her poetry chapbook You May Feel Your Way Past Me was published in 2017 Dancing Girl Press.