Christina Bertea

  • "Ghost of Sturgeons Past: Skin of our Ancestors" a 20' long "taxidermied" sturgeon reminding us they were that big and could be again if only we took care of our Delta waters.
  • Humanure fertilizer bag invoking "poop pick-up" for thermophilic composting w yard/food waste in order to spread compost on rangeland, sparking carbon sequestration: Using our Poo to Save Our Butts!
  • "Rainflower" playfully captures rain and directs it into a 55 gallon barrel for later use in a community garden. Galvanized sheet metal and found parts.
  • "Raintree" catches rain during the winter; when the recycled convention-banner liner is removed in the summer, it catches sun for clothes drying. (In permaculture that's called "stacking functions")
  • "Embracing Our Place in the Nutrient Cycle" -our urine can be harvested, capturing the N and phosphorus, then diluted and used as fertilizer to grow the flower we put in the vase in our "sculptural destination point toilet" to remind us we are part of nature.
  • "Bucketing Bronco": children bouncing up and down on the bucking bronco are pumping water into buckets holding the average amount of water used daily by most people in the world. They carried the water to playstations to see what could be done with so little.
  • "Thunderbird Calls for a Meeting of the Ways": time to stop the genocide of indigenous people and learn from them about how to live sustainably in harmony with the earth. A native totem figure chained to a cross alludes to indigenous peoples and their knowledge of place being bound and held hostage by conquering religions
  • "Madonna and Serpent: Bowing to the Earth's Healing Wisdom" -an alabaster reference/reverence to the serpent as an enduring symbol of vegetative life force energy. Early A.D. sculptures show a friendly serpent at Mary's feet.
  • "WaterWheel" created with Mary White for a popular bakery's outdoor garden. It enchanted children while reminding us all of how water used to be put to work, milling grains into flour for our daily bread.
  • This passive solar Rammed Earth Cottage explored the viability of using alternative materials as inner city infill in Oakland. Featured on many green building tours, it was much beloved by the tenants who resided in it.

Sparking shifts in the collective’s consciousness is my passion. Perhaps it was the social psychology I studied at university, or my immersion in a plethora of weekend teach-ins in the Berkeley of 1967 when so many social movements were birthing, that inspired me to aspire to being a change agent through my own “works”.
I tested affirmative action to see if a trade union would allow women like me into an apprenticeship program (becoming the first female union plumbing apprentice in the state); embraced a shamanic, inspirited world view, modeling an antidote to capitalism’s heartless exploitation of a natural world stripped of spirit or sentience; demonstrated the viability of using alternative methods and materials to construct inner-city infill by designing and building a passive solar Rammed Earth cottage in urban Oakland; studied and implemented permaculture design principles; and became fluent in urgent water conservation strategies– promoting and installing greywater recycling and rainwater harvesting systems and homegrown composting toilets. A member of the Greywater Guerrillas, we morphed into the more presentable Greywater Action when, as stakeholders, we helped California craft a workable greywater code.
Giving expression and form to the spirit in stone was my art medium of choice for many years, subsidized by my plumbing contracting business. Eventually I tired of the art marketplace and committed to exploring how art itself could serve as a change agent. How does one push/nudge the edges of what is considered commonplace and acceptable to create a “new normal” of more sustainable behaviors? How does one engage (enchant?) the public, arousing enough curiosity to open folks to new ideas and options? How do we artists present sustainability as irresistibly imaginative and fun?
I find myself intrigued with creating “art” that is also functional–that “works”, perhaps demonstrating a solution to some gnarly environmental dilemma. Whimsical rainwater catchment sculptures, elegant urine diverting toilet seats, children’s play equipment that “effortlessly” pump water…have been areas of inquiry.
Restoring a sense of awe and wonderment at the natural world around us is another passion of mine. For the Bioneers Conference one year I shared a photo essay about Bay Area Water Temples and Mineral Springs, to complement Betsy Damon’s images of sacred springs in Tibet. Lauren Elder and I collaborated another year on “Water Works”, a month-long “open garden” with functional displays of over 20 water conserving/ re-use/ wise-use strategies, inviting other artists from the water community to generate installations as well, such as a veggie wall “fertigated” by cycling water from a fish tank, a soldierfly Bio Pod for processing humanure and other organic waste while producing high protein food for chickens or fish, and a Peepeeponics demonstration using urine to grow nitrogen-hungry, nutritious greens.
I am captivated with sturgeon, our 260 million year old iconic ancestor relatives in the Delta–where the way we abuse wild water is jeopardizing their continued survival. I hoped to kindle a similar fascination/concern in viewers through a sturgeon piece I made for a show about out Delta water.
The Marin Carbon Project demonstrated that if we spread 1/2″ of compost on rangelands it catalyzes a cascade of effects, especially the sequestration of carbon in a stable form in the soil for many years following, with no added inputs. But where to get all that compost? Hey! why don’t we compost our poo and use it to save our butts (from climate chaos)? And put ourselves back into the nutrient cycle where we belong, right alongside every other critter on earth.
For inspiration, meandering alongside the banks of a stream is my greatest pleasure; listening to the sounds of water moving, my preferred music.

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  • Artist Info

    • 477 North Street
    • Oakland CA 94609
    • 510 654-7843

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