Elemental: Art as Advocacy, Mattatuck Museum, Waterbury, CT

September 11, 2022 – December 31, 2022
Opening Celebration: Sunday, September 18, 1:00–3:00pm

Featuring work by the Elemental Artists’ Collective: Debra Claffey, Patricia Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman, and Charyl Weissbach who use their artwork as a platform for environmental advocacy.

Elemental: Art as Advocacy features the work of the four artists who comprise the Elemental Artists’ Collective: Debra Claffey, Patricia Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman, and Charyl Weissbach. Each artist has her own aesthetic, but they are united by their work with wax and an interest in using their artwork as a platform for environmental advocacy.

Designed to delight as well as educate, this exhibition features artwork that incorporates imprints of detritus collected along the New England coast, explores the use of a mushroom-based material as a substitute for plastics, celebrates the wonders of plants, and serves as a treatise on the acidification of coral reefs.

Image Credit: Debra Claffey, Mandolin Greens, 2016, Encaustic, pigment stick, graphite on panel


What’s happening with your eco-pledge

THIS THANKSGIVING DAY I gave special thanks to NEW England Wax members who jump started my plastics project. You contributed my first eco-pledges! You gave me the courage to take the project forward. “Scrappy” spent summer and fall outside Highfield Hall in Falmouth, MA. You might be able to find your pledges here.


By July 4th, 2020:  500 

By November 1st, 700 

By fourth of July, 2022,  new goal of 1,000


Most contributors live in the U.S., but people in Germany, Italy, Brazil, Switzerland,England, Wales and the Philippines also contributed.  Almost all pledges came from one-on-one live or email conversations with people or volunteers I know.

Most pledges are from women, and almost all are from adults. 


Kids will have to clean up the ecological mess we are leaving them. A Clark University grad and I created a discussion/activity workshop for 8-13-year olds which help kids understand how plastic trash in their homes can make its way to the ocean and harm sea creatures and how they can help. 

At the end of each workshop, each of the children writes their own eco-pledges on a piece of plastic and Velcro it to a fish.

Our first workshop was for Ecotarium campers this summer, and other gigs are lined up


Pledges are a cross-section of all the behavior changes we have been encouraged to make: in our homes, and about food, transportation, the environment, water, plastics, agricultural products and activism.  

ADVOCACY/ACTIVISM PLEDGES stand out because each reaches groups, which multiplies the impact.  We have more power in groups.


  • will try to influence at least five friends to buy only recycled/vintage clothes.
  • will encourage his soccer coach to get kids to recycle their plastic water bottles after practice and find some way to get reusable bottles for the team.
  • interviewed me about The Snowball Effect Project for her youtube video (a 10-year-old Philippino girl). 


  • will compost and prevent food waste at school and events.
  • started a neighborhood environmental group and recently lobbied for Citizens’ Climate Lobby goals with her Maine senator.
  • is a member of 350.org and promises to become more active now.
  • will work with the local grove meant to promote green projects.
  • said I am a surfer and am time-limited. I will give $300 to 4ocean.org. I like their concrete, hands-on approach.
  • try to have one conversation daily about some aspect of climate change.

Scrappy’s friends, below, await new pledges. We know that 70% of carbon emissions are caused by 100 corporations. The fish forms are to remind us that we need many—millions, and more—of us small fish to be able to stand up to the big fish corporations which are not doing their part.

The fish form also represents fish! We do not want there to be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. 

The U.S. is still the world’s biggest plastics waste polluter. It is often said that where CA goes, so goes the nation.  

I am encouraged by these laws and proposed changes there.

  • Over the summer, CA passed AB 793, which requires companies that produce anything from bottled water to soda and sports drinks to use 15% recycled plastic in their bottles by 2022, scaling up to 50% by 2030.
  • In 2022, Californians will vote on the California Recycling and Plastic Pollution Reduction Act, which among many other improvements, would shift the increasing cost of handling non-recyclable packaging from residential ratepayers to the companies that make the products.

Thank you again for your generous participation.  Let’s hope for a safe and better year.

To find out more about The Snowball Effect Project and to participate: https://thesnowballeffectproject.org/home-2/


SEAChange Curatorial Tour

Join Joanne Ingersoll, Highfield Hall & Gardens Director of Exhibitions & Interpretation, on a tour of the current exhibitions; Turn the Tide: Courtney Mattison and SEAChange: Meditations on Sustainability.
Meet Joanne and enjoy an up-close look at the magnificent Artworks, the tour will provide historical context, technical explanations, and biographical notes on artists. This weekly tour will be offered every other Wednesday at 11:00 AM for the duration of the exhibits. It will last approximately 45 minutes with an opportunity for dialogue between textile lovers.

Members: Free
Adults: $10
Seniors (65+) & Veterans: $8

Groups limited to 10 ppl.
Register online today or call 508-495-1878

SEAChange: Meditations on Sustainability

JUNE 15th – OCTOBER 31st

Highfield Hall & Gardens Museum announces the exhibition

SEAChange: Meditations on Sustainability, featuring over 100 works of art by four artists working in the encaustic medium.

The artists formed the Elemental Collective through which they engage in critical discourse and art practice addressing and raising awareness of current issues in society and the environment. Each artist makes use of organic forms and abstractions and is inspired by nature and its processes, such as earth altering heating, cooling, and pressure.

The exhibition is aimed at furthering the conversation on how to craft a new future; SEAChange presents a look at a future that is approaching a sea change that will immeasurably affect our way of life. Each artist focuses on elements of nature: biodiversity of plant species, soil health, environmental fragility, renewal and restoration, alternatives to plastics, ocean acidification, coral health, regeneration, and kelp reclamation. Elemental Collective employs art-based activism through the ancient medium of encaustic, using materials such as, oil, cold wax, silk, marble dust, metal leaf, and resin is an act of hope in the face of dark projections for the world.

SEAChange: Meditations in Sustainability features 107 works from monoprints to sculpture, filling galleries on the first and second floors of Highfield Hall.

“Let me learn the lessons you have hidden in every leaf and rock.” — Sioux Chief Yellow Lake, 1887

Elemental Artists: Debra Claffey, Patricia Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman, Charyl Weissbach

Highfield Hall & Sculpture Gardens 56 Highfield Drive Falmouth, MA 02540 www.highfieldhall&gardens.org

Snowball Project

This mini-slide presentation details how to participate, how to help  create the human effect of a snowball gathering force as it rolls downhill. Viewers are invited to text me, 508 254 6873, one or more new eco-pledge of their choosing.   The goal is to get 500 eco-pledges by the end of this summer.  On May 27th, 112 people have made 227 pledges.  Please help.  Because it matters.

Experimenting with Encaustic Pours

I like to experiment. I think that may have been the single most compelling reason I felt called to art. Art gave me the chance to investigate things—colors, sizes, materials, shapes, spaces, and the interior forces that drive me.

I suppose I could take classes to learn all these techniques I experiment with, and probably learn much faster, but that would take all the fun out of discovering new things for myself. With these pours of molten wax, I am also working with randomness–which I prize–because of the randomness with which events in nature seem to occur. The pours, and the manipulation of the wax through use of a pencil torch, give me a feeling of watching a universe being born. Few experiences are more awe-inspiring.

I hope you will enjoy this little video of the encaustic pour. It adds another technique, another tool, to the creative toolbox.

Pat Gerkin

Crossroads: Four Perspectives

 Crossroads Cover
Reference for Elemental Artist Collective

Debra Claffey, Pat Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman, Charyl Weissbach

I am writing on behalf of four artists whom I have had the pleasure of working with recently, the Elemental Artist Collective, Debra Claffey, Pat Gerkin, Donna Hamil Talman, and Charyl Weissbach.  We recently hosted their work in our campus gallery, the Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery at Worcester State University. Their exhibition, Crossroads: Four Perspectives, was on view from Oct. 6-Nov. 14, 2019, and it was one of our most successful shows in terms of attendance, aesthetics, and organization. Their work exhibits the best aspects of what we look for in our gallery: strong aesthetic content, compelling ideas, and a cohesive group of artists who adhere to the highest professional standards. 


Their work is semi-abstract, with great visual interest in the textures and surface. Frequently, the abstract imagery is anchored in the suggestion of something solid, tangible, and identifiable. I find the balance between the two tendencies extremely engaging. Visitors to the gallery frequently remarked upon their desire to engage with the work, examine the details closely, even among those viewers who usually do not make a habit of attending art exhibitions.  Carefully chosen additional materials such as ground marble, woodcut, oil, graphite, and paint greatly enriched the surfaces. The group also used inventive hanging methods, projecting translucent paper from the wall or exhibiting a single large work divided into sections. These hanging ideas were intelligently chosen, not arbitrary, they made sense with the content of the work. 

Compelling conceptual content

These four artists are united by their concern for our survival on the planet in the age of climate change. They have witnessed subtle but increasingly dramatic changes in local and global ecological systems. Their work has been inspired by close observation of the natural world and human impact on soils, corals, vegetation, and our oceans. This close study of ecosystems has energized their work and increased their sense of urgency. This strong idea-based content is another way their work reached our viewers. We had many viewers comment on how their work communicated a passionate concern for the environment, and audiences noted the timeliness of the content. The strong aesthetic content drew the viewers in, the content made them linger.  

Organization and Technical Issues

They made my job as the gallery director easy. They understood workflow issues in the gallery and voluntarily appointed one person as their first contact so that I didn’t have to communicate everything to all four artists. They worked out a preliminary layout of all the work themselves and submitted it in a timely manner. At our end, we had a chance to review their proposed layout and then make a few changes. Once the work was delivered, we had a few more suggestions in the layout and hanging of the work, and they welcomed our input.

In sum, these artists were a delight. They consistently maintained the highest technical standards, while their work remained innovative and aesthetically engaging. They were totally professional in all their interactions with our gallery staff.

It would be a pleasure to speak further about the artists. Please contact me at any time.

Catherine Wilcox-Titus, Ph.D.

Mary Cosgrove Dolphin Gallery Director


Professor of Art

Worcester State University

Tipping Points: Changing Paradigms

Our show at Thayer Academy in Braintree, Massachusetts opened on October 9, 2018. We were wonderfully welcomed at the reception by Gallery Director Karen Koskores and many of the Thayer faculty and students, as well as several area artists.

left to right: Claffey, Talman, Weissbach, Gerkin
left to right: Weissbach, Gerkin ,Talman
left to right: Claffey, Talman, Gerkin , Claffey, Weissbach
left to right: Talman, Gerkin , Claffey

left to right: Gerkin , Claffey, Talman
left to right: Claffey, Gerkin, Talman, Gerkin

Elemental: Contemporary Encaustic 

D'Amour MFA

Springfield Art Museum Complex

We are exhibiting together in a show called Elemental: Contemporary Encaustic at the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts in the Springfield Art Museum complex. The exhibition will run from July 17, 2018 – July 14, 2019 in Springfield, Massachusetts.