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