Devan Horton Erects a Kingdom of Trash
“I have a neighbor who successfully grew bananas—in Kentucky,” says painter Devan Horton, whose own seedlings struggle through an early heat wave nearly every spring. “It's hard for them to recover after that kind of shock,” she continues. “The growing zone is shifting…“[growing bananas] was long considered impossible in our area.”
Residents of Northern Kentucky are generally spared the extreme drought and flooding associated with the coasts, but as Devan points out, Midwestern bananas are now officially on the table. “This region often feels resilient to climate change when comparing it to coastal regions, but even here, we are experiencing some pretty extreme changes,” she tells NOT REAL ART. “Dramatic weather shifts are more common, including drastic temperature swings and storms with torrential downpours appearing out of nowhere, and the wind has been quite damaging.”
In Penchant, a recent series of provocative oil paintings, Devan tackles climate change and excessive consumption from a visceral angle, triggering our disgust with piles of soiled diapers, cigarette butts, and single-use face masks. Stacked, sometimes quite literally, to the heavens, the pillars of garbage in her work are monuments to human apathy, putrid towers of our most embarrassing failures. “Tower and pyramid compositions are employed to demonstrate our hierarchy of material goods,” Devan says, explaining that she created Penchant “because it's an issue that reflects badly on our behavior, and it seems to be one of the easiest topics to tackle, yet we do not talk about the issue enough.”
Using pandemic downtime to her advantage, Devan began Penchant as an expansion of her longtime interest in nature. “The forest was my playground as a child,” she says, describing the frequent hikes and outdoor explorations that would provide raw data for the works in Penchant. “Too often on these hikes would I become distracted by an invasion I was not seeking—common trash,” Devan laments. “Once I started noticing litter on trails, it was hard to see anything else, and Penchant became something I needed to get out of my system.”
Head over to our April 2023 exhibition, Art and the Environment, to see Devan’s submission to the show, “Wade.” The title of the piece promises we’ll wade through garbage instead of water if things don’t change, and fast. “Penchant tends to view the human collective in a dimmer light,” she admits. “A radical shift must happen within the minds of the people if we aim to change anything…I think art can aid in that shift.”
“I have a neighbor who successfully grew bananas—in Kentucky.” — Devan Horton
All photos published with permission of the artist(s).
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