PICTURED: Marcos Lutyens’ “Rose River Memorial” will be unveiled on April 22 at the Ojai Retreat. Photo courtesy of Marisa Caichiolo
by Emily Dodi

What better way to celebrate Earth Day than with an outdoor community art event that invites us to reconnect with the Earth and each other?

6 Feet of Connection: Back to our Roots, opening on April 22 at the Ojai Retreat, was conceived by contemporary artist, curator and Flourish Ojai fellow Marisa Caichiolo, who describes the event as an “open space for local artists and our Ojai Valley community to honor the Earth through the power of artistic expressions.” Caichiolo, who founded Building Bridges Art Exchange (BBAX) in Santa Monica, explains that the project is an opportunity to “celebrate our majestic environment through land art creations that inspire us to imagine our future together.” In addition to Caichiolo, participating artists include Brian Berman, Carol Shaw-Sutton, Greta Lovina and Pamela Grau.

As Caichiolo explains, the project is a “local initiative with a global vision.” She adds that “the pandemic is giving us a pause. For a brief moment in history, humanity has no choice but to reflect on its vulnerability. Through art, we have the power to reach each other, to communicate, and to establish a deeper understanding and emotional connection with our planet.”

Whether fashioned from rocks, leaves, roots or other natural elements, the essence of each work of art is to leave no trash in its wake. As a result, the installation embodies a universal call to action.  As Caichiolo explains, “In order to survive, we must mobilize our community to work together in bringing back balance between humanity and the natural order of things.”

Only one installation includes elements deliberately meant to leave a trace, a lasting impact. The Rose River Memorial Project, conceived by artist Marcos Lutyens, is constructed of roses made by members of the public to honor those who died from COVID-19. The project, which began in December 2020 in Santa Monica, now comes to Ventura County. With free rose-making kits provided by BBAX, the public was invited to create a rose for every Ventura County resident lost to the pandemic. The result is a powerful wall of hand-made flowers. Simple yet stunning in its effect, the community-made monument serves to help us grieve together and acknowledge what we have lost and what we hope the future will bring.  

The Porch Gallery in Ojai will launch the free, four-day event on the evening of April 21 with the showing of global land art video installations by various artists as well as a livestream of Mapuche vocalist Beatriz Pichimalen singing “offerings to Mother Earth.” The video installations will be on view every evening through April 25 in the windows of the Porch Gallery.

6 Feet of Connection also includes several free online events including presentations by Caichiolos, in which she discusses the art of skin decoration with natural dyes, as well as land artist Andrea Juan, who shares memories of her 15-year artistic exploration of Antarctica.

6 Feet of Connection: Back to our Roots will be on exhibit April 23-25 at the Ojai Retreat, 160 Besant Road, and Porch Gallery, 310 E. Matilija St., both in Ojai. For more information and other events and venues, visit flourishojai.com/earthdayworkshops or www.buildingbridgesartexchange.org/ojai-earth-day.