Hoe I became an environmental artist

Hair coloring for piglets

Hi, my name is Attila Farkas. When I was six years old, the only form of environmental degradation I had known was hair coloring for piglets. It was 1967 and we lived on a small farm in Hungary, my brother was three years old when he decided that he should try his skills as a hairdresser for piglets. Our twelve piglets were three months old at the time and ran free in our large back yard in the company of chickens, turkeys goats and other farm animals. The piglets were all healthy, strong, playful, and white. There is a Hungarian proverb that says: Variety is pleasurable. My brother wanted patchy piglets. He had a good imagination and some unconventional tools. He had brought a small bucket of corn to entice the piglets to move closer to an open barrel of tar from their usual feeding grounds. It was an old technique to use hot tar under hardwood floors as an adhesive. We had some leftover tar in the barrel, so when the piglets came closer to it to enjoy the corn, Peter took advantage of the opportunity. He dipped a piece of wood into the tar and used it as a primitive brush to paint some black patches on the white piglets. The piglets didn’t mind the hair coloring, maybe because the wood had pleasantly tickled their skin. My parents had a good laugh, no one got hurt, and the piglets never complained about the incident or considered suing my brother for defecating their image. Countless things had changed since then… Including the way a look at the tar like substance that littered the Florida coastline, after last year’s disastrous spill. When I lived in New Jersey, we used to go to on a family vacation to an island off the North Carolina coast, called Emerald Island. In 2002, a job transfer brought us closer to my brother in Canada and further away from one of my favorite spots on the globe. It is 2010 and I haven’t seen the ocean in eight years… I had missed it to a point where I had cravings for the sultry mist that the crashing waves perspired from all the work they had to do, turning over millions of seashells. I had missed standing on the shore, listening to the rhythm of the waves, and looking out in the distance after four or five rows of crashers discovering where the light algae green water had transitioned into cobalt blue. Hermit crabs hurrying away from your footsteps carrying their borrowed home. The warm afternoon waves of the high tide washing bubbles and clean foam around your feet. If you stay in one spot long enough, the waves steal a handful of sand away from right under your feet and you feel like sinking into the sand and becoming one with the shore. I love collecting seashells or strange shaped driftwood I even like the seagulls, always searching for food or try to get a bite sized fish out of my bait bucket. I had promised my kids that we’ll go to the ocean together and enjoy its beauty, experience its treasures as a family should. I had promised a clean, wonderful environment, teaming with life: dolphins, mullets, crabs, seashells, pelicans, and white sea herons searching the shores. We had planned our vacation from June 20th-27th on Emerald Isle, in North Carolina. I remember the kids started packing a suitcase in the middle of winter, they were so excited to go. After the news about the Deepwater Horizon disaster I’ve checked the progress of the spill and the predictions, praying that it will not reach the North Carolina coastline before we get there. I wanted more than anything, that my kids experience the clean, undisturbed ocean before the spill gets into the Gulf. I prayed and prayed for clean ocean, clean beaches, and edible fish and crabs to catch. My kids had every right to experience beautiful beaches, crystal clear, warm water and hundreds of finger mullets swimming by them in the shallows. It is interesting to read about it in books and see it on TV, but the ocean only becomes one with you if you stand in it and let the rushing waves steal enough sand from under you until you become a human stilt. My prayers were answered, the spill has never reached the Carolina coast, but I don’t have any illusions about the global effect of this man-made disaster. Scientists had recently discovered large dead zones in the Golf, where the toxins have accumulated from the flood of black death that was gushing out from the hole. The whole that we have punched into the Earth in a location that is not in our total control. I remember the frustration, anger, disappointment I had felt when I watched the public display of poisoning our ocean by BP. After three weeks I had sent an e-mail to the white house recommending removing BP from the decision-making process and ask for international help in addition to putting the navy in charge. I have seen engineers and scientists providing solutions that fell on deaf ears. My solution was to guide a gigantic steel pipe, the size of a family home and the walls thick enough to withstand the pressure over the oil well and fill it up with large steel baring balls and rocks. I’m sure there were more sophisticated solutions, but it was painfully frustrating to wait for other people to solve this disaster that was affecting my ocean. It was affecting our ocean. I teach my kids to be resilient, creative, and never give up. I believe that if there is a problem or challenge you can always find a solution or improvement. Today, I see problems and solutions everywhere. I focus on solutions, instead of gloom and doom, but I don’t close my eyes and cover my ears when I discover the problems. I also believe that an eight-year-old may have a solution to a problem that we adults just cannot fathom. That’s why I’m asking everyone for a solution that fits on a sticky note. It is fabulously titled, my sticky note campaign. Simply write your best idea to clean up our environment on a sticky note and mail it to me. I will post it on this large size painting, until it is all covered with solutions. I will select the best ones and take practical steps to make sure that they become reality. Please send me a sticky note with your picture and a permission stating that I can post your picture and your sticky note on my site and in other publications. Thank you for your help keeping our oceans, rivers, air, and food cleaner. I am in the process of updating this website and make it mobile friendly. Attila Farkas

Further details about the 2021 Environmental art contest are coming up shortly.

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