Sheffield’s Millennium Gallery is currently hosting an exhibition called “John Ruskin: Art & Wonder,” which is part of an international celebration marking the birth, 200 years ago, of the influential English art critic.
“Ruskin’s passion for nature began in childhood with a fascination for minerals and mountains,” wrote the gallery’s curators. “Later in life he wrote at length about geology, botany and zoology, explaining how the study of natural history was central to his thinking around both art and architecture. Ruskin believed an understanding of the natural world enriches our lives in many ways; for him, appreciating its beauty was just as valuable as any scientific knowledge.”
Project Pressure, a charity founded in 2008, seeks to provoke action to confront climate change by organizing exhibitions that combine photography and science, specifically focused on the world’s glaciers.
The group’s latest installation of artwork is titled “Meltdown. A Visualization of Climate Change by Project Pressure” and is on display until September 1st at the Natural History Museum, Vienna. The exhibit features projects by renowned artists, such as architecture and landscape photographer Simon Norfolk, who have traveled around the world to photograph some of the planet’s most vulnerable environments and landscapes. The artists worked with scientists from a wide array of backgrounds to ensure accuracy.
Glaciers retreat and glacier mass loss is a readily apparent symptom of the impacts of climate change. Mass loss from glaciers, unlike other weather and climate events, can be directly attributed to warming. All around the world, glaciers are visibly shrinking, prompting local residents, elected officials, academics, prominent cultural figures, and climate activists to raise the alarm about the rapidly deteriorating state of the world’s glaciers.
The exhibition is divided into three sections, the first of which is titled “The Importance of Glaciers,” which includes work from artist Peter Funch, a Danish photographer who captures landscapes, people, and portraits . Funch uses postcards of images of glaciers in America to portray recession over the years, giving the effect of old photographs by using RGB tricolor separation, a technique invented in the 19th century.
Various urgent subjects are explored in the second section of the exhibition, “Current Issues.”This includes the impacts of climate change and glacier loss on populations, such as the over one billion people dependent on the Himalayas for water.
The final section of the exhibit, “Meltdown Consequences,” surprises audience with peculiar examples of the impacts of climate change. This section includes work by artists Norfolk + Thymann, picturing part of the Rhone glacier in Switzerland covered by geo-thermal cloth to prevent further melting. This striking image reflects the desperate attempt by local people in trying to conserve the critical water resources that glaciers provide and that they heavily depend on.
Project Pressure artist Toby Smith is an environmental photographer whose project “Heavens and Earth on Aragat” is currently being exhibited as part of Meltdown. Smith told GlacierHub about the project and shared his experience during his time on Mount Aragats, the highest point in Armenia. The glacier feeds into a network of tributaries, providing water to surrounding provinces.
Smith said that initial research conducted for the project showed Mount Aragat was under major threat from climate change, experiencing dwindling ice cover and rapid decrease in glacial surface area over time. “The glacial cover has been disappearing on account of the insufficient snowfall, changes in rainfall patterns, and critically an increase in annual mean air temperatures,” he said.
One of Smith’s main goals was to understand the different human relations with glacier flow. He was able to connect with people from remote villages across provinces and learn how changes on the mountain affected their lives. Unfortunately this change in hydrology has negatively impacted the livelihoods and economies of these local communities. Although the primary focus is to document landscapes, Smith said he deliberately focused on also exhibiting a strong human and cultural presence on the mountain.
Fiona Bunn, a British and Swiss alpine photographer, commented on the power of photography and visual artwork to raise awareness on important issues regarding climate change.
“For the past 5 years I have felt the increasing significance of communicating through visual arts the changes I have seen, and the positive impact it can have on awareness of climate change” she said. Bunn added that the role of an artist in this field involves documenting changes, celebrating the beauty of the natural environment, and creating community by sharing with the world nature through art.
“The success of “Meltdown” is in finding a public platform for sharing this important issue”.
The Meltdown exhibition is on display at the Natural History Museum, Vienna until September 1, 2019. Like the glaciers, see it before it’s too late.
This Photo Friday features “The Icebergs,” painted by Frederic Edwin Church in 1861, on permanent display at the Dallas Museum of Art. “The Icebergs” draws on a combination of influences: Church’s real-life observations during his month-long voyage in the North Atlantic Ocean, accounts written by other explorers, and the mysterious, ethereal quality of the Arctic. At a Sotheby’s auction in 1979, the painting sold for $2.5 million, the most any American painting had sold for at public auction at the time.
Peder Balke (1804 – 1887) is often known as the “Painter of Northern Light.” A painter firmly rooted in the Romanticism movement, which flourished from 1800 to the 1860s, his landscapes and seascapes portray the power and majesty of nature. His work depicts the wildness of Norwegian seascapes and the potential nature has to destroy.
Balke’s talent has recently been rediscovered by collectors and museums alike. A collection of his work is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City until July 9, some of the paintings featuring depictions of glaciers.
Many people may never see a glacier or an iceberg up close, given issues of cost, inaccessibility and environmental changes. Yet artist Mariele Neudecker is making the experience a bit more accessible, as she transports a vision of the Arctic to galleries and museum floors.
Born in Düsseldorf, Germany, the 51-year-old lifelong artist now resides in Bristol, where she creates sculptures, photographs, films and paintings. Over the past 20 years, Neudecker has produced a wide range of landscape and still life artwork, much of which seeks to capture the essence of glaciers and icebergs.
In an interview with GlacierHub, Neudecker walks us through the journey behind her glacier artwork. A condensed and edited version of the conversation follows.
GH: I understand the Zeppelin Museum installation is not the first project you have done focusing on glaciers.
MN: I have done a lot of work with [19th century landscape painter] Caspar David Friedrich paintings and converting them into 3D tank pieces. The first one I did in 1997 was clearly using ice in a reference to his painting “Sea of Ice.”
GH: What attracted you to ice and glacier themed art back in 1997, when you first incorporated Arctic ice elements into your artwork?
MN: It [my work] was more of an exploration of landscapes. I looked at mountains, forests and the ocean. However, I always thought the remoteness and difficulty to imagine the Arctic created an interesting perception… It is about the subject of glaciers and the Arctic, but fundamentally it’s about perceptions and how we have longings to be somewhere else. You can transport people to other places through paintings, films and all sorts of artwork.
The Arctic has always been a metaphor for climate change and human shortcomings, so there are a lot of cliché images of glaciers representing the environment. That has provoked me to add other layers to that representation. The challenge is to avoid the clichés.
GH: What was the most difficult feeling to capture that you wanted to convey to viewers?
MN: I wanted to hint at the unknown and to highlight that all we see are little fragments of something much bigger. It’s hard to capture the feeling of standing in massive open spaces where you are trapped in your eye sockets and you must turn your head to take it all in.
It’s similar to deep sea projects I have done, where the camera is in the black depths of the ocean and only with artificial light can you see a fraction of the spaces. You know how massive the space is, but you only see a tiny piece of it.
GH: What was the most surprising to you when you were out in the field capturing glaciers?
MN: The sound! That really threw me. I had no idea how loud they were. Camping on the side of a glacier the silence and then the sounds that interrupted that silence were so powerful. I’ve seen a million images of glaciers, but no one told me about the sounds.
I tried to record them but I wasn’t able to capture it well. That would be a future project I would love to do.
GH: Before you went to Greenland, all of your Arctic work was derived from images and paintings. What sparked your first trip to Greenland in May of 2012?
MN: I was lucky to spend a week with the American writer Gretel Ehrlich, who has written beautiful books about Greenland and ice. Before my experience with her I felt I could do my work with my imagination and images, but after [that week] I wanted to have the experience of being out there in the open space that her books described so amazingly well.
I was in Greenland for a month, but I spent a week with Gretel and two subsistence hunters and two teams of sled dogs. A major component [of my project] was to experience the history of photography in reverse as I made my way through the trip. I started with HD digital… all the way back to a pinhole camera at the end. I had 12 cameras in total. I spent the following few weeks on my own [not counting the guides], traveling to fjords and far northern reaches of Greenland. There were these very remote places with villages of only 12 inhabitants. It was extraordinary seeing how those people lived.
GH: What was your favorite camera to shoot with?
MN: I like the Polaroid. It was slightly unpredictable and it produced tiny pictures. I liked the absurdity of capturing immense spaces in tiny pictures.
GH: Could you give me an overview of the Zeppelin Museum exhibit and walk me through some of the main pieces?
MN: I will start with most recent piece of the exhibition, which is the afterlife piece of the boat in the ice. The whole thing started with the ship… it struck me as looking like one of those early Arctic explorer ships. I didn’t want to be too literal in following Casper David’s ship stuck in the ice, so I kept it abstract and cropped the ice around where the ship is set in. I also decided to add [videos] in the whole exhibition to give an element of space and constant moving and change. I then added layers with the 3D effects with the blue and red separation, which I had never done before… it took me a while to dare myself to do it but I sprayed one side of the boat red and the other blue to link it to the 3D images that were on the wall.
GH: How did you use the 3D images and the videos to create the moving effect?
MN: When you walk into the space the white ice surface stretches all the way to the sidewalls and the back walls and monitors with the film and moving images are synchronized, so that the images are either pushing towards you or moving away. There is a constant feeling of washing in and out.
GH: What was the process behind the 3D and stereoscopic images of the glaciers?
MN: It is disappointingly easy – you just point and shoot. I have a camera with two lenses, and it creates these double files, so in 3D stills it generates two images. Then you have the choice of either using the two images for stereoscopic viewings or putting it into Photoshop, which generates these red and blue color images.
GH: It seems that you are trying to immerse the viewer in the Arctic world with the swaying room and various 3D pieces. MN: That is true, but at the same time I aim to make that experience last only so long. Inevitably, you realize that you are standing on the floor of a museum and the illusion collapses. The art is interesting when your imagination takes over, but there is no way to simulate actually being on the glacier.
Dancing to the tune of a melting glacier: CoMotion tackles climate change
“If someone suggested you watch artists perform an hour-long dance about climate change, you might shoot them your best ‘have-you-lost-your-mind’ look. But your curiosity level might be raised, too.
When Karen Kaufmann’s phone rang in February 2015 and the caller asked her about putting together just such a production, her reaction, although certainly not the same, at least followed a similar arc.
‘I grappled with it,’ says Kaufmann, artistic director at the University of Montana’s CoMotion Dance Project. ‘The topic overwhelmed me. It was not immediately intuitive how one would go about choreographing climate change.'”
Read more about CoMotion’s production of “Changing Balance/Balancing Change” here.
Visitors To A Shrinking Alaskan Glacier Get A Lesson On Climate Change
“John Neary, director of the visitor center for [Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau, Alaska], wants the more than 500,000 people who visit the Mendenhall Glacier each year to know that it’s rapidly retreating due to climate change.
‘It became our central topic really just in the last few years,’ Neary says.”
Read about Neary’s programming efforts to teach visitors about the effects of climate change here.
The Tiny World of Glacier Microbes Has an Outsized Impact on Global Climate
“The ability to tinker with our planet’s climate isn’t isolated to Arctic puddles. Microbes within these small pools, and nestled in lakebed sediments buried miles beneath the Antarctic ice sheet, could harbor the ability to seriously alter the global carbon cycle, as well as the climate. And researchers have only recently begun to navigate these minuscule worlds[….] Scientists once thought these holes were devoid of life. But researchers are now finding that they actually contain complex ecosystems of microbes like bacteria, algae and viruses.”
Read more about a researcher’s three-week efforts to monitor the ability of puddles and the life contained in them to manipulate Earth’s climate here.
At GlacierHub, we don’t just love science— we’re passionate about art and photography, too. We’ve featured work by Zaria Forman and Diane Burko, and each Friday we share photographs of glaciers and other mountain scenes. Now we’re excited to try something new: We’d like to invite our readers to share photographs that you’ve taken of glaciers. Specifically, we want your glacier selfies.
President Barack Obama has already demonstrated this, in a video selfie with a glacier he shot in September last year in Kenai Fjords National Park in Alaska, during a trip to the Arctic focused on climate change.
“Behind me is one of the most visited glaciers in Alaska,” Obama said. “It is spectacular, as you can see. And we’ve been able to spend the day out here, just learning more about how the glaciers are receding. It’s a signpost of what’s happening with a changing climate.”
In that spirit— in recognition of the beauty of glaciers, their threatened status, and glaciers as places that humans interact with— we’d like to invite you to submit your own glacier selfies. We want selfies of you standing in front of, on, or near a glacier. This invitation is open to anyone who might visit a glacier: a researcher or scientist, tourist or traveler, or someone who lives near one.
We will likely publish some of these images on GlacierHub. The photos (no videos, please) should be relatively recent, and should be true selfies. Please email submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org with a note giving us permission to publish them, along with some basic information: your name, the glacier’s name, the date it was taken, and what you were doing there. (And don’t take any risks while taking the selfie!)
Please email us your photos by May 1– although if you have a trip to a glacier planned after that, let us know.
The Lewis Glacier on Mount Kenya is one of the most surveyed tropical glaciers on Earth, and has been monitored and mapped regularly since 1934. In 2010, scientists found that the Lewis had shrunk by 23 percent in just the previous six years.
The New York Times reports, “Our glaciers, we’re told, are disappearing freakishly fast, but fast for a glacier can still be too slow for the human imagination to seize on.” How do we document this change, and raise awareness of glacial retreat? Award-winning photographer Simon Norfolk answered this question through photography. His series, When I am Laid in Earth was developed in collaboration with Project Pressure, a nonprofit organization that aims “to photograph and publish the world’s vanishing and receding glaciers, and to document first hand the environmental impact of climate change.” Norfolk’s photo series relied on historical maps and GPS data to mark the contours of the glacier’s retreat and, in the middle of the night, light those lines on fire.
When I am Laid in Earth was recently featured at the French photography festival, Les Recontres d’Arles. To read more about the works featured in this series, please download the associated newsletter, which details both the series and the Project Pressure initiative.
In the northeast corner of Central Park by the Harlem Meer, a large billboard hints at Manhattan’s icy past. The piece, commissioned as part of the Drifting in Daylight art exhibition celebrating the 35th anniversary of the Central Park Conservancy, was designed by Karyn Olivier.
Olivier chose to depict a glacier that covered Manhattan 20,000 years ago. The glacier shaped many parts of the island in ways that are both familiar and taken for granted by New Yorkers. Through her piece she also leaves a trace of Seneca Village, a mostly forgotten African American settlement from the 1800’s.
Olivier, who was born in Trinidad and Tobago, is an artist and associate professor of sculpture at Tyler School of Art. She spoke to GlacierHub about her piece, titled “Here and Now/Glacier, Shard, Rock.”
GH: Why did you choose to depict the glacier that used to cover New York?
KO: The task to create an artwork for a place like Central Park, a place already filled with so much beauty, was daunting—what can compete with such an amazing landscape? So I decided to focus on the site of Central Park and reveal what existed at that location—perhaps allowing for a reflection on what stands there today. I was reading about the Wisconsin Glacier that travelled through what is now New York City, 20,000 years ago. It created valleys, moved boulders, formed rock outcroppings, carried alluvial debris that was eternally stranded in new locations when the ice sheet melted. I was interested in this physical evidence, this geological diaspora, that can be found throughout Central Park—it’s both everywhere, in plain sight, but also hidden by our lack of knowledge and awareness. I was also interested in the more recent history of the site—Seneca Village—and the fact that there is little evidence left of this once vibrant community. This settlement of mostly freed African American residents in the 1800’s was displaced, scattered wholesale throughout the city, with few traces of their tenancy left in the bucolic park. The billboard depicts an image of a glacier, but also a pottery shard that was found on the site of the village. I saw a literal and metaphoric connection between the subtle residual artifacts of both the glacier and village.
GH: What meaning do glaciers hold for you?
KO: One of the most awe-inspiring experiences I’ve had was coming upon a glacier while visiting Iceland 14 years ago. It took my breath away—its vastness, its enormity, its visual reminder of the immensity of time and a vanished epoch that it holds and bears witness to.
GH: Can you tell us a bit about your choice of medium for this piece?
KO: I decided to use a lenticular photographic process to create the billboard display. In addition to featuring an image of a glacier and an artifact found from Seneca Village, I embedded a photograph of the landscape that currently exists directly behind the billboard structure. Depending on the viewer’s vantage point, multiple iterations of the three images can be seen. At moments each image is distinct; at other times they reveal themselves as fragments; at varying distances the three images overlap and are compressed—in a sense, conflating thousands of years of time in a single image. When a viewer moves from one end of the billboard to the other, the glacier will seem to move and morph into another time period—transformed as if the park goer on some level is controlling time or her understanding of it. The glacier mutates into a shard from a ceramic vessel—a domestic object made from clay dug from the same earth the glacier traversed before it also vanished. I hoped the image would be arrestingly beautiful, mysterious and thought provoking, as the viewer ponders the connection between the park and the display, the display and himself. I hoped it might spark the viewer’s recognition of the circularity and cyclical nature of time and history and his brief existence in this continuum. GH: What emotions, thoughts or experiences are you hoping to trigger in passers by?
KO: My aim is for the viewer to have a visceral response to the piece. I want the expansiveness of the glacier to be felt in contrast to the scale of a ceramic plate fragment. I hoped to somehow equate the two—the massive and larger-than-life physicality of the glacier with the smallness and intimacy of a domestic object, a kitchen plate. What does it mean to position these two opposing scales and physicalities into the same image? I wanted to raise more questions than answers.
GH: Have you depicted glaciers before?
KO: I haven’t, but this project is inspiring me to continue this exploration.
For award winning artist Emma Stibbon, connecting with the landscapes she draws is a crucial part of her artistic process. Her travels have taken her to both poles and in between, where she has witnessed the impacts human activity has in some of the most isolated parts of the world.
Stibbon, who is Senior Lecturer in Fine Art at the University of Brighton, creates large, generally monochromatic works that evoke expansive and lonely landscapes. She agreed to do an interview with GlacierHub to discuss glaciers, her role as a witness of human imprints on the world, and the importance of capturing the ephemeral nature of the world’s icy landscapes.
GH: What drew you to glaciers and ice bergs – specifically in the Antarctic Peninsula – in the first place?
ES: I have long been interested in the effects of snow and ice on a landscape. My first trip to Antarctica in 2005 was extraordinary: watching the full cycle of ice moving and calving into bergs right in front of me; there is something mysterious about such a large gleaming mass on the move. I am interested in glaciers both as dynamic features and as places of psychological imagining, and their evident retreat in the Peninsula area are of urgent environmental concern. I’ve been committed to it as a project ever since with projects in the Alps, Iceland, the High Arctic and Antarctica.
GH: Why do you feel it is important to depict them?
ES: Ice sheets and glaciers face a precarious future and their evident retreat in the Polar Regions is of environmental concern. One of the reasons I was provoked to visit the Antarctic Peninsula was reading about recent scientific assessments that show increasing instability in the Polar ice sheets confirming that the vulnerability of the Polar Regions will have profound effects upon our global environment. I see my work fitting within a North European Romantic tradition of the Sublime. In a contemporary context this is both a landscape under threat but also a dynamic powerful force that puts a perspective on our own existence and other species.
GH: What difference does it make for an artist actually to visit the ice, rather than to draw from photographs?
ES: Being ‘in the field’ allows me a sense of bearing witness to something, I require that physical experience of place in order to make my studio based work. Once on location I usually gather information, either through drawing from observation or the camera. I believe that a human response to place is still meaningful, that the tactile quality of drawing connects with people on an emotional, visceral level.
GH: Why do you select particular media (drawing and prints rather than oils or watercolors)?
ES: The drawing process is fundamental to my work. I struggle to establish a correspondence between the drawing media and the subject and to equate an experience of place with a drawn mark. I often use delicate drawing media; watercolour, graphite, carbon and aluminium powder to try to both render an image and use the media as metaphor for the subject. The scale of the work is important, I want to create immersive drawings that communicate something of the sensory qualities of the place – to connect viewers with the Polar environment. For me the act of drawing has almost magical qualities, allowing me to connect the physical world with memory.
GH: Does your art emphasize the ice itself or the broader environment?
ES: A bit of both. I have a formal interest in the complex, physical shapes of the ice and the extraordinary light of Antarctica, bergs can appear almost like a mirage. Passing through the strange, ethereal light certainly felt like one was travelling into an internal world. I wanted the work to reflect a feeling of reverie or introspection. However although my work relies on an aesthetic response there is usually a political underpinning indicating an unstable terrain. My interest is in rapidly changing landscape, we may be one of the last generations to see these giants of ice – I want to witness them now. I am interested in whether drawing can connect the viewer with the contemporary urgencies of our relationship with environment through a visual immersion in the image.
GH: What does your work convey?
ES: I am attracted to places that are undergoing formation or transformation and how the apparently monumental can often be so fragile. I position my work and interest in landscape around themes of awe and an awareness of the power of Nature. But what also preoccupies me is that despite the apparent monumentality of place, there is always that contingency and inevitable frailty of change. We seem to be in denial about this as a human species, we want to believe that our surroundings are immutable and resilient, that there’s a solidity to the ground we walk on. For me the challenge is rendering this view, to try to represent and ‘stage’ the subject through the composition and material construction of the pictorial space.
GH: Can you tell us a bit about your upcoming exhibition?
ES: From 11 June – 5 September 2015, I will be showing the outcome of my recent Polar fieldwork in the exhibition Ice Limit at the Polar Museum at the Scott Polar Research Institute in Cambridge. The exhibition will include large-scale drawings and prints focusing on wilderness and the remote and how this occupies our imagination, in particular taking the idea of glaciers and ice shelves as symbols of change and transition.
Now on view at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario, the exhibition “Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art, 1775-2012” explores the aesthetic and cultural significance of glaciers for Western art over the past 400 years.
The exhibit aims to inspire audiences to take action to protect the world’s glaciers as global warming takes its toll on these magnificent landscapes and icy frontiers. “Vanishing Ice is both a beautiful glimpse of some of the most remote and fragile ecosystems, and a call to action on what many people hold to be the defining issue of this generation,” said Victoria Dickenson, executive director and CEO of the McMichael gallery, in a news release.
The traveling exhibition is comprised of more than 70 works by 50 artists from 12 different countries, including paintings, rare expedition journals, photographs, videos, and installations. The artists presenting include Bisson Frères, Rockwell Kent, Thomas Hart Benton, and Alexis Rockman. Despite diverse themes and interpretations, almost all the artists were, in some way, stimulated by an effort to eulogize the beauty of ice.
“I was looking for works that would inspire people today to feel the same attraction that drew artists to these regions over the centuries. Seeing these works, people will hopefully experience this connection and be moved in some way to make a difference,” said Dr. Barbara Matilsky, the show’s curator, in an interview with National Gallery of Canada Magazine. The traveling exhibit’s first stop was the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington in 2013. After Bellingham it traveled to the El Paso Museum in Texas, and then on to the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta. Kleinburg is the final stop.
Arranged both geographically and chronologically, the pieces in the show vividly demonstrate how rapidly alpine and polar landscapes have changed over time. The photograph Noctilucent Clouds over Mount Baker, Washington (July 30,1975) by Eliot Porter (1901-1990) captures Coleman Glacier crowned by a rare kind of twilight cloud found in Polar Regions and composed of crystals of water ice. (See a time lapse of noctilucent clouds here.) It was taken during Porter’s journey to Pacific Northwest. Along with photographs by Henry C. Engberg (1865-1942) and Brett Baunton (1959-), this work documents the dramatic retreat of the Coleman Glacier since the beginning of the century.
Please click here for more information on Vanishing Ice at the McMichael Canadian Art Collection.
“This is the beginning of a project that aims to explore the powerful nature of a living creature in constant evolution. I want to show how such a powerful creature can be so fragile. In those pictures you can see their magnificence, but at the same time all their fragility.”
Study Finds Increased Volcanic Activity Due to Changes in Glaciers
“Melting ice is causing the land to rise up in Iceland – and perhaps elsewhere. The result, judging by new findings on the floor of the Southern Ocean, could be a dramatic surge in volcanic eruptions.”