Yvonne C. Espinoza

I am exploring the transformative aspects of resilience on communities. I focus mostly on the edges or boundaries where different communities converge. This is the ecotone.
Like any meeting, one always hopes to emerge intact, recognizable, and safe.
Resilience is the counterpoint to panic, disillusionment, hopelessness, denial, or insularity.
Envisioning a world where one lives without fossil fuels, addresses climate change, and considers the power of community to break free from silos, is an act of courage.


16” x 16”
Vellum, rocks, glass, paper, encaustic wax on wire photographed with the skyline of Hartford, Connecticut, US

We humans walk around every day at the center of existence. The streets are made for our cars, the buildings are made for the companies we work with, shop at, or visit—even the parks are made for our enjoyment. Our lives are dappled with reminders that this world of ours includes non-humans: squirrels (and pretty birds) snacking at the bird feeders, rats snagging pizza slices from the trash, eagles nesting outside of high-rise windows, and locally, bears strolling in the town center.

They are here—should we decide to stop and notice.

Imbued with human importance, we can look upon our world and invite, coexist with, or even destroy any non-human. We are masters of our domain.

What is this lens through which we are seeing our reality? How have we let our human nature overlay Nature itself?

Incorporating a regard for our natural systems in all our planning for building and construction with the goal of creating a beneficial existence with ALL our neighbors is a heritage we should claim.

The human landscape is vast. It can include soulless hardscape devoid of greenery, or permeable pathways full of flowering trees, birds, and all the beings that follow.

We are together as allies, neighbors, and friends.

“Land use planning touches on every aspect of local government concern, involving decisions on air quality, water quality, biodiversity, transportation options, economic vitality, and quality of life. And sound public policy is essential to community resilience efforts…” -Richard Heinberg, Think Resilience Course, excerpt from the “Resilience in Major Sectors” lesson.
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

What Peels Away

Mixed media on cradled wood panel
8” W x 14” H x 1” D

Air, water, and the soil that grows our food are foundational in our lives. And yet, as the years progress, the clarity of connection with these core elements often becomes buried under layers of routines, expectations, and aspirations.

Our daily journey is fraught with the allure of the easy and comfortable, topped with bewitching beauty. Like the crew in Homer’s Odyssey, we forget our goal to head “home.” We are whisked into an enchanted dream far disconnected from our truth—possibly even forgetting what is truly valuable.

On this night of the Beaver Moon, I take stock of what I need and am grateful for. I consider the journey to reveal the beauty of our air, water, and soil lies within us.

It begins with taking the time to look and SEE without the presets and presumptions of what we have been told to believe.

This deeper investigation leads us to explore every corner of this earth: a discovery that peels away that which no longer serves. Even then, all the cast-offs hint at something familiar. Like love, they evoke a timeless interconnectivity.

And here, at my current “coordinates,” I surmise that what matters consists of such connection.
It’s not about the hardship, the revolution,  the fight, or even the dream.
The central focus must be the relationships: the forces that can stir us to act.
After all, what wouldn’t we do for love?
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

What Rising Oceans Bring Together

Repurposed costume jewelry, shell pieces, glass, and fabric in beeswax and damar resin on gesso board
5” x 7”

“We need all the help we can get.”

Our oceans are coveted for our personal wanderings and enjoyment, full of the beautiful ornamentation of diverse life, and a bountiful supply of tasty treats. The very size has always provided the reasoning to trust in its power to perpetually dilute our human-derived pollution.

We are learning the early lessons of dealing with multiple crises- ecological, energy, economic, and equity.

Many of us are looking to develop community resilience as a way to gently transition through changes. It offers options to “leave no one behind” and preserve the best of who each of us is. In doing so, we each provide the diverse and varied perspectives that make us human.

We are capable of working together. Can we partner with natural allies and neighbors, too?

Our rainforests need help, as do our oceans.

We have an opportunity to understand the richness and depth of our non-human neighbors. The integrated nature of communities allows us to value the unique capabilities of marine plankton and old-growth forests. Who is best at answering the call to “get all the help we can get”?

We are ALL in this together.

“Building community resilience means rolling up our sleeves and getting involved in the nuts and bolts of how society works. “ 
-Richard Heinberg
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

Reflect, Reveal, Refine 1

Glass, metal wire, porcelain on wood

14” H x 9.5” W

“Resilience and sustainability require justice.”-Richard Heinberg

As a forager, we learn certain rules around picking, berries, mushrooms, or herbs.

We leave some for the animals (who are also great at spreading around the seeds), for others, and for replenishment (so the plant will continue to return and thrive).

One could apply these rules to all our natural resources, including forests, oceans, animals, and even oil.

It is counter-productive to pick all the berries, or cut entire forests, or put all the garbage in the oceans.

While it may seem that mankind has “leveled-up” and has moved beyond the confines of nature and achieved a status that does not require the earthly “ball and chain”, and that our human ingenuity has once again outwitted Mother Nature, this is a great disconnect.

Though this may be the impetuous youth stage of humanity, there is an entire history of teachings from around the world we can learn from.

As beings with a relatively short life span, decisions regarding the items we buy, use, or live with every day may help one to consider what one would allow into our bodies and lives or that of our children’s. Hopefully, it can grow to include our neighbors (human and non-human).

True social justice includes connection with our natural resources, including healthy food, clean air, and safe water. This would be for everybody.

Bring on the great reconnect.
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

When we are invited

Repurposed costume jewelry, textile, and dried moss on burlap.

10”H x 10”W

Much of my recent work depicts snapshots of community borders. The video clip is an example of an event or many snapshots.

“Relocalization is a strategy to build societies based on the local production of food, energy and goods, and the local development of currency, governance and culture.”—Post Carbon Institute

I heard plenty of music as a child, but one little song from Sesame Street has become a go-to theme on my playlist as I walk through the day encountering folks from all walks of life. “People in the Neighborhood” is a simple little song, but it is a reminder of the value of diversity in the service of community resilience.

Relocalization is more than just an economic strategy. It’s a cultural claiming of the very things that make us all human: a declaration of active, conscious humanity over passive, unconscious conformity. In our very local spaces, under the thin veil of business-as-usual, there is an entire land to understand as more than just a place for strip malls.

We are not alone when we choose to connect with our geography. Like-minded change agents are farming in fields and on rooftops; they are bringing wildlife back with plants; they are inviting fireflies to appear from piles of branches once again; they are listening to the land. We can hear the hum of the bees. We might spot a lone bald eagle over our own neighborhood. Everything we need is all here.

Yes, business has a role. Government has a role. We citizens also have a role.

Citizens create the cultural identity of our geography.

Though it may sometimes seem like we are powerless, together, we truly are the soul of this land.
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

When we are Family 1 & 2

Each piece: repurposed costume jewelry, textile, dried moss on burlap.
10” x 10”

“Reducing economic diversity may be efficient, but it also reduces resilience.”

“….as regions specialize, there is an overall loss of local diversity in jobs.” -Richard Heinberg

Do our avocados, T-shirts, mobile phones, and even sneakers come at the expense of another’s safety, freedom, and life?

Our parents came to the US as a way to partake of the “American Dream”. This was a vision spread throughout our world.

Family, health, security, freedom, and the promise of success are possible.

Hope for a beautiful outcome is still at the edges of every act and word we release.

We pick up after those who have forgotten that freedom, in the long run, is about working together. Living together is about experiencing humanity in all its diversity. It is a rallying cry to move beyond societal mono-culture.

In the biological world, groups of organisms create change. Each organism, some slightly different, provides the ability to provide the evolutionary adaptation to move forward.

In my work, an array of old and new, synthetic and natural, collected here and manufactured far away, are used to piece together “living” beings and communities.
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

The Company We Keep

Metal, costume jewelry, salt, ice, plant matter, glass Petri dishes
12" diameter

Every day, the different types of lives connected in our systemic world are affected by our (human) actions.

In this year-end blizzard, as I was considering the effects of flash freezing on our wildlife, plants, and microbes (and on humans), I observed my patch of Austrian winter peas that act as both a cover crop for the soil, and as a snack for a variety of creatures living in the piles of brush. Along the edges of the icy road are plants tolerating our human need for salted streets.

And like our animal, plant, or microbial neighbors, our lives are thoroughly enmeshed with theirs. However, some of these worlds are safer than others.

Our smallest decisions affect each other’s lives and the entire system of life on our magnificent planet. As daunting as that may seem, working together with our human and non-human neighbors will enable us to develop an ongoing resilience through changes, disruptions, and upheavals.

And maybe, just perhaps, we can know what it means truly to be a good neighbor.

“Resilience building usually tries to maintain the basic function and structure of a given system in the face of disruption. But transformational efforts are purposefully disruptive to the system, changing some of its functions and structures so that it can build resilience in ways more suited to a new reality that’s simply non-negotiable.”
-Richard Heinberg
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

What Melts Away

We are always collaborating on our shared future.

We can choose to move forward, fully conscious and educated about our actions or remain unconscious about our actions and keep the rose-colored glasses.

What we know is that energy, ecological, economic, and equity issues need to be addressed relatively quickly.

How we adapt from our daily, high expenditure of resources to something currently more realistic is the hurdle. Weaning ourselves from our energy expectations built on past habits can create opportunities in other areas.

What is possible is finding deep connections with each other and our non-human neighbors for the long-term health of our planetary existence.

In my work, I consider today, energy is more at the forefront of our cultural makeup. It becomes as important as my appreciation for flora, fauna, and family traditions. My past emerges with a different context and focus.

What Melts Away 1 Encaustic, repurposed costume jewelry, fabric, wood, leaves, pine needles, light bulb core 6” x 6” x 2”

What Melts Away 2 Encaustic, repurposed costume jewelry, fabric, wood, leaves, pine needles, light bulb core 6” x 6” x 2”
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

Artifice, Artifact, and Actualization

Part of the Material Evolutions series.
(Work in progress)
Repurposed textile, jewelry, wire, on stretched canvas.
22"H x 18"W

In ecology, resilience is seen as the ability of a system to absorb disturbance and retain its basic function and structure. In other words, a resilient system can adapt to change without losing the qualities that define what it is and what it does—which together comprise that system’s “identity.” Resilience boils down to an ability to adapt to both short-term disruption and long-term change while retaining the system’s essential identity. Building resilience starts with decisions about what we value about a system. Concepts like the adaptive cycle and panarchy further aid our understanding of resilience in systems.”
– Richard Heinberg

My work takes a systems thinking approach to defining boundaries and imagines a snapshot of complex adaptive cycles working within a panarchy of “biological” beings made up of human-conceived “DNA” material.

In this work I am studying the identity of communities, the ecotone, and levels of activity within each community. The ongoing evolution of each community is unknown, but dependent on how each community has dealt with diversity and redundancy.
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

Both/And (for Quinn)

Part of the Material Evolutions series. Repurposed costume jewelry and textiles on canvas.22”H x 18”W

Is the human super-power the ability to create the unnatural? The non-integrated or creation without consideration.

The artworld is always touching upon this topic of creation, sometimes with great consideration and other times (seemingly) not.

As artists, we have the ability to have a foot in two worlds. With one we create and build and with the other that is already in existence, we interact with our fellow world inhabitants. It isn’t always about the dichotomy: technology vs nature, man vs beast, civilization vs wilderness, modern vs ancient, etc.

There is that beautiful sweet spot that we can credit to artists and creatives. It's a place where old wisdom, that has been cultivated from understanding the earth as a “partner”, gives rise to an appreciation for our earthly resources and their limitations.

Perhaps, it can even serve as the interwoven guiding principle toward a long-term appreciation of the world we leave for our children. A deeper legacy. And perhaps, a deeper love.

We artists humans can create beautiful things that nature did not. But, nature, long the staple spark of creative contemplation, give us the tools.
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

A Soil Waltz: Stirring Camaraderie, Compassion, and Change

Repurposed textile, jewelry, beads, and glass and shells on stretched canvas.
24”H x 30”W (unframed)

“As a species, we tend to move away from the unattractive and difficult path. This is where art, in all forms, is able to travel. We journey with the characters in great works of literature, we dance to the layered beats of drums and the strums of bass riffs, we see the ability of original art transform our perspectives of reality. Within each “newness” we take the risk to read, listen, view, move or think from a different angle.

This is the realm where I am working. The place where there is the perpetual battle, the ever-building of communities, the influences of cultures (microbial and otherwise), and the hybridization, mutation, decimation, and creation of something different. There is a raw truth that can be frightening.
What also exists is the utter beauty the awe embodies. There is a battle and there is a dance.”
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

From the Material Evolutions series

Repurposed costume jewelry and fabric on stretched canvas
6" x 6"

In the biological world, the edges of ecosystems where one system meets another are called an ecotone. It’s the place where things evolve, adapt, collide, or interact. It’s the place where all the “action” happens. The activity at the boundaries (and their various states of permeability) is where the inputs, outputs, feedback all occur. Systems are inside us. We are part of our own systems. Our systems share edges. All of our systems are part of larger systems. How do fences make good neighbors? Read more about the Material Evolutions series here.
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

Meditations: Emergence

A series of six 6" x 6” pieces Hand-rolled paper beads,seed pods, wood, stone, shells on gessoed, cradled board.

What happens when our ordinary expectations collapse? This series is about resilience. It is about the place at the edge, an ecotone, the area that may fail or evolve to survive when met with new variables.
In my exploration, I am considering botanical formations and the “evolutionary” trajectory they take when encountering unexpected interactions.
In this case, they are meeting with social unrest, a global viral spread, and the Spring season. What emerges?
  • Yvonne C. Espinoza

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