Meteorite LON 94102 (2019)
Moon No. 1 (2004)
Untitled: Antarctica (2009)

Since the beginning of my art practice, my work has investigated the places where our phenomenological world meets the human experiences of wonder and meaning. The extraordinary events which had to occur in order for us to even have a universe, a planet and a habitable natural environment are an unending source of both wonder and meaning; these are the motivation for my creative inquiries.

Since 1998, my practice has become increasingly transdisciplinary, research-based and focused on the places where art, science, nature and culture converge, propelling me to look for evidence across civilizations to where, as a species, we have sourced meaning in our relationship with the natural world. Whether we reflect on our earliest artworks carved into or painted on rock, survey our eons-long enchantment under the starry night, or peer into the microcosm of our body’s biochemistry, we find evidence that both physically and imaginatively, humans derive health and meaning from an active, living connection with our natural world.

Since 2004, I have been exploring the environmental and cultural effects of anthropogenic climate disruption and how our waning connection with nature has contributed to our ecological and social predicaments today. My work has taken me to Antarctica to connect this remote and fragile nature with the global populations that will be effected by its decline as our planet warms. I have been researching the biological implications of artificial illumination at night and how species health, including our own, is linked to an experience of natural night conditions. I have been investigating the physical, emotional and psychological effects of living a life removed from nature, and how science is showing, unsurprisingly, our deep biological need of nature experiences for health.

Since 2011, I have further focused my inquiries on the material composition and origins of the cosmos as both a literal and symbolic link to our connection to it. The work asks whether in order to actuate meaningful stewardship of our environment and benevolence toward each other, we may need to conjure a remembering of the deep-time stories that are scribed in the geology, planetary and solar system formation that evolved us. The work seeks to activate the long-held knowledge, both scientific and traditional, that we are deeply connected to the universe across its 13.8 billion years—and the profound poetry in knowing that the material comprising our bodies shares cosmic origins with the material comprising our solar system and beyond.

My inquiries have led me to research the human emotion of wonder and how it activates our sense of social connection and kindness toward other humans, other species and our natural world. I have been curious about how stones from Earth and space—and their cosmochemical history—have been a source of humanity’s curiosity for millennia and have mused that perhaps in some poetic sense our shared chemical origins might have motivated our efforts to try to read their chemical stories. These objects of cosmic and geologic signatures found their way into the human mind and heart hundreds of thousands of years ago. I have been interested in how the phenomenal world has propelled unexpected human meaning: that meteors inspired us to develop a science to study them, which eventually illuminated the startling truth that our very species evolved after a meteor impact caused the mass extinction that allowed mammals to radiate. I have been ruminating on the romantic notion that the brilliant and fleeting shooting stars in our night sky—rocks from space aflame in our atmosphere—have inspired us to send our most precious hopes and wishes to them since the time of Ptolemy. I have been marveling that when we look up at the stars we are literally absorbing their photons into our bodies, and some of that light we absorb is older than our species, our planet, our solar system.

My work as a whole intends to study the notion of an embodied relationship with the cosmos—that we are, in our very chemistry, of and from the stars, an idea that although had been pondered for centuries and has been proven within my lifetime. My intent is to cultivate an expanded sense of human connectedness with the natural world and explore the emotion of wonder as a convergence of both a personal and cosmic reflection that precipitates that feeling of connection. Perhaps a daily practice of wonder engagement could be a path to empathetic response and decision making in the face of our time’s great social and environmental uncertainty.

—Erika Blumenfeld