Rachel Simmons, “Weather Atlas”

Rachel Simmons
Orlando, FL

Weather Atlas
Unique altered book with gesso, marker, colored pencil, found collage, adhesive vinyl, relief prints, screen prints & digital prints.
Closed dimensions are 11.25” tall x 8.5” wide x 1.25” deep. Open dimensions are 11.25” tall x 17.75” wide x 1” deep

Artist Statement

As an artist, I’m always searching for new ways to share my personal experiences and express my concerns. As a writer, researcher and bibliophile, the artist’s book provides an expansive space for interaction, contemplation and experimentation. My books are a platform for education as well as a conduit for intimate connections between the artist and reader.

Weather Atlas is an altered book that explores how climate change is impacting biodiversity. Collaged elements from an array of sources overlay the atlas’ original weather data maps from 1977 when an earlier wave of organized environmental protests were happening across the US. The narrative is layered; bracketed text cites contemporary scientific articles on biodiversity and climate change; simultaneously, a first person narrator reflects on common consumer worries and behaviors. With imagery taken from 20th century educational books, Weather Atlas juxtaposes images of industrial machines, fossil fuel technologies and extreme weather phenomena with animals & habitats under threat. The inherent critique is multifaceted; one can read the science which demands more conservation to protect biodiversity in the face of floods, forest fires and drought, but the insurmountable malaise and confusion of the human consumer is ever present.

As with many of my altered books, the process started with finding the right book, but in this case I found 4 or 5 books. My main resources for images were Wild Animals of the World by Mary Baker and William Bridges (1948), What Makes the Wheels Go Round, by George E. Block (1935), The How and Why Wonder Book of Weather edited by Dr. Paul E. Blackwood (1960) and My Fun-to-Read Books: Life in the Forest, Life Along the Seashore and Birds in Summer published by the Southwestern Company in 1973 as well as the March 1955 edition of The Clemson Slipstick, a magazine for engineering students and alumni.

Produced over the course of a year, Weather Atlas was a product of research, writing and cutting/reassembling material from existing books. I read scientific papers by leading climate scientists, quoting them alongside drawings of mammals cut out from Wild Animals of the World and layered over the atlas’ original pages. The book’s first person narrative is based closely on my experiences as a consumer who is trying to make good environmental choices, but feels frustrated by the global fossil fuel-based economy. My atlas both supports and undermines the practical function of the original; the maps and statistics are obscured by a cacophony of images and perspectives, showing the turmoil of our present moment.