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


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

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