artists > Beth Shadur

My newest body of work, The National Park Project, has resulted as a continuation of my works in the Fragility of the Sacred series, comprising paintings and individual handmade artists' books integrating idea, text and visual images, with the theme of fragility. I am undertaking this work now as I am a mid-career artist, facing the recent loss of my mother, and the loss of my father and sister to rare forms of cancer. This theme has been present in my life in many aspects and deserves interpretation and exploration. I am looking at fragility of not only the wider environment, but the fragility of our own lives, both in terms of physical fragility but in terms of emotional fragility so common in our current world situation. As I age, I understand more significantly how fragile our plans are for our futures, and I often use symbolism to explore and portray these ideas.

My most recent series aspires to explore the National Parks as pristine environments that need to be considered as sacred to protect the land and environment which serves as our nation’s natural legacy. The exhibition and research were funded, in part, from an Artist Grant through the Illinois Arts Council Agency; the support allowed me to visit and photograph the five national parks that are in Utah and do continuous research for my artwork. Most importantly, I am reflecting on the impact of climate change, tourism, and man’s use of natural resources on each park; the paintings will reflect these concerns by representing the natural beauty, plants and animals impacted and threatened, and using text to address the fragility of the natural environment there.

My work is intended to celebrate the pristine spaces found in the National Parks of the United States, created in order to inspire stewardship of our land and climate. The works address current and historic challenges the parks face in terms of industry, climate and environmental change, growing tourism and other human impact on surrounding communities. Any such look at the National Park system must acknowledge the problematic taking of lands from Native peoples, and the destruction of Native culture that ensued. I have attempted in these works to pay homage to those original inhabitants by including images of Native people, artifacts, and their original use of the land; I consciously do so to honor the values shared by Native populations of living integrally with the land. As Americans, we have much to learn from their view of these lands as sacred.

Sublime (Yellowstone NP)
watercolor with mixed media on paper
42” x 37”
Gasp (Yellowstone NP)
10” x 12 ½
Karst (Mammoth Cave NP)
watercolor with mixed media on paper
41” x 36”