Trustman Art Gallery

Drifting Clouds: Audio Guide – Everyone Says

February 15, 2023

Script by Gallery & Curatorial Fellow Aria Cooper

Everyone Says, 2021
Cotton curtain, hand-embroidered tencel, hand-felted stone,
used jean, cotton batting, second-hand canvas, thread
Melanie Bernier


This piece hangs in the gallery right at eye level just so you can look through the eye holes. There is a distinct physicality in Melanie’s work, the textiles take up a lot of space and you are encouraged to walk around the pieces. Melanie’s work is largely about climate change. As you look around the gallery you will see images of blue skies and fire as well as images that allude to childhood and cartoons like big eyes, scribbles, pages, and comic strip layouts. These contrasting elements of humor and childhood pair nicely with the panic and sense of impending doom that climate change brings. It also speaks to how understanding climate change can make you feel small and confused when you try to understand yourself as a part of something bigger. I love that you can look through this work, it reminds me of a ghost costume made out of a bedsheet. The eye holes come from a mask making practice in theater. Melanie is a musician and actor in addition to a fine artist. The physicality of the work brings climate change to us in a way that we can see and experience immediately, here and now and in a form we could touch, contrary to how the reality of climate change can seem conceptual and distant. This work personifies the sky and says “Everyone Says I’ve Changed”. It gives the sky a kind of neurotic, angsty energy, perhaps allowing Melanie to release some of those feelings. Her work often deals with her future self and questions her responsibility in the climate crisis. “Everyone Says I’ve Changed”  also refers to the state of the sky changing over time because of environmental disaster. It is estimated that between 2030 and 2050, 250,000 people will die from climate change every year, that’s basically the entire population of Richmond, Virginia! On the left there is a slot with a 1 cent sign next to it and a wrapped rock sticking out. The rock further references the idea of children playing and playing in nature. I also think about civilizations that functioned with trade of resources rather than paper and metal currency made of said natural resources. I question what role money plays in climate change as the biggest culprit is gas and meat companies. It can feel hopeless to create change as individuals who need to move and don’t always have the option of public transportation or don’t live in places conducive to walking or biking. Lessening your consumption of meat and dairy isn’t always an option depending on your access to food and income. It is discouraging that people in power continue to make decisions that benefit their wallets even when they detrimentally impact the earth we all share. Because Melanie aspires to make work that is climate conscious, she thrifts most of her materials. She often questions why people should make artwork in a world that seems saturated with material things and images but continually concludes that creating art is about making something you’ve never seen before. That’s hugely important because you have to be able to imagine something that doesn’t exist to picture a world that functions differently. Whether that’s without fossil fuels, discrimination, capitalism, or any other radical way that the world could exist, we have to be able to imagine. How do you imagine our world could improve? In what ways could you inspire your community to act? 



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