Neal Mann

Focus: Hannah Rothstein Interview

Neal Mann
Focus: Hannah Rothstein Interview

California-based climber and artist Hannah Rothstein's work is heavily influenced by her love of the outdoors. In her latest series National Parks 2050 she has created a call to action for all who enjoy the beauty of nature. Drawing on the classic National Park posters, the series demonstrates how climate change could affect a number of America's most famous landscapes.  

How did you come up with the idea for you new series on the national parks? 

The idea for these works came to me in December. I'd been thinking a lot about how I could use my art to address the topic of climate change, an issue that worries me immensely. I just hadn't struck upon the right idea yet. A conversation I was having with an illustration client brought the classic Parks posters to mind, and boom! This project was born in my brain. My art often focuses on presenting everyday objects and ideas in a new light, and I knew these posters would make the perfect vehicle for talking about climate change.

When you're coming up with concepts like this do you focus on ideas which will cut through the social conversation? Do you think it is hard for artists and activists to make an impact in the digital age where the audience is often over run with content?

I'd say I look for ideas that both cut through and create social conversation. Yes, I want my concepts to stand out. But, I also want people to find them so interesting they feel compelled to share my work, thereby creating a new conversation. Inherent "shareability" is part of how I get my art out there, and I love seeing it resonate with people. The more people find it meaningful, the more successful I consider it to be.

Overall, I think the viral nature of the internet helps artists and activists spread their message. Sure, attention spans can be short and the amount of content crushing, but it's a lot easier to get seen and share you work now than in pre-digital age era. Back then, you had to rely on the decisions of a select few to get your work published or displayed, and even then, it might not be shown in a place accessible to the vast majority of people. The internet helps art and activism be a lot more grassroots and, in turn, reach more people than ever before.

As an artist how do you feel about the current situation in the U.S.? Do you think the grassroots activism will be able to have an impact against an administration trying to cut funding from the arts?

As an artist—and simply as a human being—I'm sad and alarmed to see arts funding being put on the chopping block. Art is necessary for humanizing the information we consume each day. It can galvanize people in a way numbers cannot. Plus it's necessary for creating smart, well-rounded societies. Studies have shown that kids who receive arts education do better in all aspects of academic life. 

It would be an egregiously shortsighted and questionably motivated move to cut NEA, public broadcasting and other public arts program funding, and I have hope that enough people, including those in the government, understand that. As for grassroots activism protecting the arts, I am partially worried that there are so many issues to address, art funding might get back-burnered. 

One thing I'm sure of, though, is that art won't away. People will keep creating it, funding or not. 

You can see and buy Hannah's full series of posters here