The art of Donald and Era Farnsworth draws from science, mythology, art history and spiritual traditions to address the relationship between humanity and the environment. Through a variety of media, including tapestries, paint on canvas and U.S. dollar bills, they investigate the effect that myths and science have had on human values from ancient times to the present.
Peters Projects displays their work in the show “I Forget I’m Human,” which opens on September 8 and runs through November 4.
“Creating new work involves bouncing ideas off each other and going back and forth until we find something we both can get excited about,” explain the Farnsworths. “Sometimes, you can find both of us with paint brushes in hand, working on the same piece together.”
One of their series, “Art Notes,” involves taking dollar bills and putting images of famous creative individuals on them, such as Darwin, Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo and Chief Red Cloud.
Other pieces include tapestries that look like Buddhist thangkas and works on canvas featuring beings that are half human and half animal. The Farnsworths research cultures around the world, identify symbols that are recognized worldwide as imbued with meaning and find creative ways to incorporate these images in their work using traditional (hand painted) and contemporary (digitally generated) elements.
The Farnsworths, who have been married for more than 30 years, met shortly after Donald earned his master’s degree from the University of California at Berkeley in 1977. After marrying, they traveled to Tanzania where Donald designed and helped build a handmade paper mill while Era taught artisans and helped them develop new craft products lines.
In 1980 the Farnsworths returned to California to found Magnolia Editions, a fine art publishing studio in Oakland, California.