Beth Racette’s work spans a variety of media, from acrylic ink paintings to sculptures and installations. The paintings she has generously shared with One Earth Sangha are from her Gaia Series. These paintings reflect love of the Earth—her beauty and mystery—and deep concern about the harms being done to her.
Racette’s work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. The Gaia Series was first shown in 2013 in the James Watrous Gallery at the Overture Center in Madison Wisconsin.
Beth Racette on the Gaia Series
Gaia is the name the Ancient Greeks gave to the Earth Goddess, the Creator of Earth and the Universe. In the 1970s, systems theorists borrowed the name Gaia when they developed the theory that the Earth is a complex, living, self-regulating system with the capacity to maintain the conditions for life.
My aim in creating these paintings has been to learn about and portray the many systems and aspects of the Earth. I have tried to cast a wide net, explore as much as I can, and synthesize my findings visually. These paintings do not represent scientific concepts. I’m a dabbler in science. But the paintings are partly inspired by my scientific learning and represent an intuitive and impressionistic integration of my exploration.
For many years I have contemplated the interconnectedness of life and the processes of flow (e.g., flow of history, transmission of ideas, and creative improvisation). Making meditative paintings assists my contemplative exploration. Many of the paintings are simultaneously micro- and macroscopic, meaning that they could represent, for instance, a cell or a galaxy. Furthermore, cells within my paintings metaphorically represent entities ranging from organisms to institutions.
Several years ago, when I first learned about living systems theory, I was excited to find a scientific framework for the concepts that I’d been intuitively exploring in my paintings. Living systems theory focuses on relationships, and attempts to understand the underlying principles by which life organizes itself. In the mid-20th century, living systems theorists began to see life as made up of “wholes” rather than “parts.” These wholes (cells, organisms, ecosystems, the planet Earth) are internally organized and are constantly exchanging energy and information to maintain an intricate and evolving balance.
In the years since the industrial revolution, the Earth’s biosphere has been damaged ever more rapidly by the effects of human exploitation and toxicity. Today we humans are slowly waking up to the fact that we are destroying the earth’s living systems and hence ourselves. I often ask myself, how can we face the reality of this destruction? How do we evolve an awareness of our profound interconnectedness — an awareness powerful enough to inspire us to make the necessary changes to heal and protect our Earth?