Works by the artist Diane Burko depicting glaciers and ice sheets will be featured at the United Nations headquarters in New York from September 27 to October 8. They will be displayed in a digital exhibit “Save the Earth, Save the Land,” in which a screen 50 feet long will be installed in the first floor lobby of the headquarters.
The images to be shown on this screen include several of Burko’s paintings, along with other works, including a piece by the German artist Joseph Beuys, named 7000 Oaks, for the trees he planted in the city of Kassel, Germany, each accompanied by a basalt column. Other works in this exhibit also suggest the urgency of addressing environmental degradation. Among these are photographs of the columns which Ugo Rondinone installed near a freeway in the desert outside Las Vegas, David Maisel’s photographs of polluted mine sites and Chris Jordan’s images of crushed cars, spent bullet casings and cellphone chargers.
This exhibit closely follows the September 21 meeting organized by the Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The meeting is bringing leaders from countries around the world to deposit their instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession to the Paris Agreement on climate change, accelerating the entry into force of the agreement signed in Paris last November.
Burko’s training as an artist began with painting. In the late 1970s, she and the artist James Turrell took a flight over the Grand Canyon. This experience was a turning point, leading her to explore landscape imagery and to include aerial photography. She has traveled widely in Greenland, Svalbard, Patagonia and Antarctica, and has spent time in high mountains as well, particularly the Rockies. In 2011 she received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Women’s Caucus for Art.
Her recent work engaged directly with climate change. In addition to taking photographs of glaciers, icebergs and ice sheets, Burko makes paintings whose cracked surfaces evoke crevasse-filled glaciers. These were displayed recently in a solo show earlier this year at the Cindy Lisica Gallery in Houston.
Burko continues to produce and display art actively. Her pencil drawing, Portals of Zion, was included in an exhibit at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for the centennial of the national parks. She took part in a two-person show with Paula Winokur, titled Glacial Dimensions-Art and the Global Ice Melt, that ran from February through April at the Karl & Helen Burger Gallery at Kean University in Philadelphia.
Burko’s photographs and Winokur’s porcelain sculptures presented the beauty and fragility of ice and snow. Burko wrote to GlacierHub that she particularly enjoyed a “lively panel discussion” in which she and Winokur took part, along with several scientists, leading to active engagement with the audience. “Art, as opposed to reading a newspaper or looking at a graph, can hit the viewer on an emotional level and help them connect,” she commented.
Her work is on display at other settings as well. The National Academy of Sciences recently bought pieces from her Elegy series for their permanent collection.
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The public will have other opportunities to see exhibits of Burko’s work. She will take part in an exhibit Polaris: Northern Explorations in Contemporary Art at the Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Running from January 11 to April 30, 2017, it will present works about the Arctic from 19th century explorers to the present, emphasizing the rapid pace of environmental change in the region. It will include Burko’s Morning Sail 2, 1 photograph of a recently-calved iceberg off Greenland.
Later in 2017, she will have a solo show Glacial Shifts, Changing Perspectives, Paintings and Photographs at the Walton Art Center in Fayetteville, Arkansas. In an email to GlacierHub, Burko described this exhibit, opening on May 4 and continuing to July 15, as “my most important solo show.”