My current work is primarily interested in where human culture and Nature intersect. Examining the past, present and future of the human relationship with Nature. I work in photography, video, installation, workshops, and community space making. I have formal training in photography and studied at the University of the Arts London’s Central Saint Martins and attended the San Francisco Art Institute, and currently the University of Hartford.
My projects primarily happen in the public realm. With the creation of a sustainable land lab called the Midtown 34th Street Project in Miami, where I lived in an eco-bus with my family while creating demonstrations of easily adoptable ecological solutions that residents could do in their own backyard. This space was open to the public and hosted a myriad of cultural activities from radio broadcasts to compost workshops. This project bore the idea of creating a model of community development that rooted itself in generating local sustainable culture. The first model, Colony1, was developed for Miami. This model continues to develop itself through a living demonstration site at Moon and Stars Farm in Homestead, which utilizes permaculture and biodynamic principles to grow organic food for the local community and provides educational programming.
While creating these sites, I have continued to develop my individual photographic work, a series of plant portraits, the human form in nature and the human hand in action. During my extensive amount of time outdoors and on the border of the Everglades, all of my senses are saturated in the contemplation of the disappearance of nature and the breadth of impact the human hand has on this planet. I consider the history of the human being, its origins, the evolution of our civilization and the massive scars it is ripping across the ecologies of the globe. These thoughts are the catalyst for me to be an active participant in solution building. These thoughts are the driving impulses of my work.
The final result of my work develops through the pursuit of my own curiosities about the world around me. I ask questions, research, tour, learn, engage and make observations of how we, as people, operate in relation to nature. In exploring this relationship, it has become powerfully evident that food is one of the main connectors of humans to nature. Food is a driving force of the human’s well being and the most detrimental industrialized practice on earth. In addition, it is a great connector, not only connecting us to the land but also to each other and catalyzing the formation of community. Man is sustained by the land and yet man destroys it to produce mass amounts of food and to extract natural resources to perpetuate his economy.
My questions aim to be objective: What is the human in juxtaposition to nature today? What is our relationship? What was our relationship? How can we make a new relationship? These questions are answered through my objective observations of systems that are being utilized within a community. I attempt to create a moment of engagement in such systems through the creation of an artwork.
Through my series “Hands at Work”, I have explored ways that people are working to create a new relationship, one that is able to be sustained. The series has manifested through a series of photographs of hands holding tools or objects as a result of the work they do, also asking people of different occupations to wear a GoPro camera on their head as they are working. The footage is of the many tasks of operating a small organic farm, beekeeping, wood carving and butchery. The series aims to show a system of integral, productive labor conducted with stewardship and beauty.
This work has expanded to looking at larger local systems such as the large commercial agriculture industry in South Florida, its labor force and also our local trash system. This involved conducting an ethnography on the South Dade Landfill, the main landfill for Miami, located in an ecological sensitive area at the heart of a series of canals and Biscayne Bay.
It has been said by Linda Weintraub, in her book To Life!, that responding to the environmental crisis is the number one challenge of our time. This book is a sort of compendium of artists who are looking at the issues that surround us from immigration, food, water, community, ecology, economies and my work is directly related to continuing this conversation.
Art making is part of a Curative Culture: A culture that relies on bridge-building across boundaries in order to cultivate a sense of responsibility for the earth and the well-being of all of its connected neighbors. Blair Butterfield is not satisfied with diagnosing societal problems, but is seeking means for her art to actively challenge and change destruction caused by extraction. Butterfield’s work Chasing Magic combines her life experiences farming and co-building cooperative spaces with a personal journey through forms of spiritual and social healing. A teacher by trade, Chasing Magic begins as a set of instructional travel logs, where she shares lessons from various teachers. Through stories in these logs, she begins to demystify an ever-expanding group of spiritual and animate objects. Then, she turns them around and reintroduces an “aura” through contextualizing them as art. Simultaneously, she changes the context of the exhibition space itself, from a space to pose questions to a pragmatic one, perhaps more needed in our present day. This body of work is comprised of field notes, photographic “plant portraits,” collected objects, and animate objects that will transform though the course of the exhibition, as Butterfield continues her journey of co-learning and co-creating to be a better steward of the Commons.