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February 2007
Environmental Surrealism
Featured Artist: Michelle Waters


Michelle Waters was born and raised in L.A., where her grandparents influenced her to believe in the power of imagination and the individual to create change in society. While her paternal grandmother, an activist with the United Farm Workers, introduced her to political advocacy, many of her earliest memories are of making art with her maternal grandfather.

In college, Michelle moved to Santa Cruz and became involved with animal and eco-activism, spurring her career in political art.

Today, when not making art, Michelle serves on the board of Works San Jose, an alternative art and performance space, and helps rehabilitate injured wildlife. She lives with her husband and four cats in the mountains of Santa Cruz. The following is a sample of her work.

Artist’s Statement
My paintings fuse my quite serious concerns about the environmental crisis we face with my love for the absurd. I often wonder how we humans decided that we are the smartest and most important species, given that we seem to have a predilection for war and a bent for mass suicide. In my imaginary world, animals revolt against the concrete-enshrouded materialist mess that 21st century life has become.

I call my work “environmental surrealism.” Influences include kitschy portrayals of animals that one sees in mass-marketed popular culture, the nightmarish imagery of Hieronymus Bosch, the writings of Edward Abbey, and my work as a wildlife rehabilitator. My cute but naughty animals are having a good deal of fun turning our superiority on its head by demolishing industrial objects. Grizzly bears with jackhammers “restoring” a freeway, a mountain lion with an acetylene torch decommissioning a bulldozer, arctic wildlife laying waste to a Hummer dealership and animals tearing down billboards for housing developments are some of the characters who populate my paintings.

These paintings deconstruct the assumption of human superiority to other species by giving my view of what might transpire if animals took control over the fate of the planet.

I offer my work as cultural resistance to ecocide.—Michelle Waters

To learn more about Michelle Waters, visit

Global Warning.
Rainforest Refugees.



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