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Climate Change in the Arctic

J anuary 30–M ay 18, 2014

Climate Change in the Arctic January 30 to May 18, 2014

not be left only to politicians. After all, how can something as gradual


and imperceptible as climate change, occurring over spans immensely

Subhankar Banerjee

Caleb Cain Marcus

Olaf Otto Becker

Gilles Mingasson

be narrated or visualized to tell a

Resa Blatman

Joan Perlman

story? How can irreversible changes

Diane Burko

Camille Seaman

to geological processes resulting

longer than a human life-time,

from global warming, such as melting glaciers and disappearing icebergs, be represented in “real,” human time? Seeing Glacial Time


provides one answer: through artistic

@ The Shirley and Alex Aidekman Arts Center

representations, rather than scientific visualizations, created with the aid of

imaging technologies.

Since the 2006 release of the

documentary film An Inconvenient Truth about former Vice President Al Gore’s

Over the past two decades, travel

to polar regions has opened up to

educational campaign addressing the

the lay public, including adventurers,

human causes of global warming, scientists

environmental tourists, and artists’

have begun to appreciate the formidable

residency programs. Visual artists and

challenge, and ultimate importance, of

journalists have been able to travel to

translating analytical research into a

remote places previously populated

compelling story and that this task should

exclusively by native peoples and visited

only by explorers and scientists. Now,

approaches to photography and video.

some of the most vulnerable and visually

Some use their own, or others’ artistic and

spectacular land- and seascapes are being

scientific photography as source material;

captured photographically by artists and

some leverage the phenomenological

scientists alike—in color, and at scales and

power of documentary photography; still

from vantage points that allow us to see

others expand landscape documentary

more than ever before. The majority of us

traditions through dramatic shifts in

who are not able to travel to these polar

perspective. Using the camera as a tool

extremes can easily access an astonishing

of both communication and expression,

range of images of glacial terrain through

these artists create works suggestive

the Internet, vicariously experiencing

of a melancholic Sublime—affective

through sight alone what others have

lamentations on the changing polar

experienced with more of the senses.


Photographic images record a fundamental correlation between space and time as


much as they embody the photographer’s


perspective, in both objective and subjective terms.


This timely exhibition introduces

Boston audiences to visual artists whose Arctic work has not been seen locally or to new work they produced for this occasion. Seven of the eight artists have gone to extreme lengths—and distances— to capture and create imagery using varied SUBHANKAR BANERJEE Caribou Migration I, 2002 Digital chromogenic print Collection Lannan Foundation



Since 2003, Camille Seaman has been photographing

glacial time, Seaman’s photographs melancholically mark

icebergs and glaciers in both of the Earth’s Polar Regions

in human time the disappearance of iceberg as time

from the decks of icebreakers. Her interest is to foster


a human connection in the present with the ancient ice as a living, breathing, transmutable material, expressive

Icebergs, for Seaman, evoke a primordial presence. They

of her belief in the oneness of the natural world rooted

are the massive physical composites of prehistoric air and

in her Native American heritage. As freeze-frames of

water. They are manifestations of the history of Earth, older than human history. But a tension looms in her panoramic photographs, typically taken during overcast conditions, when the contrast between ice and sea is crisp and the colors are true to her vision, achieving the most neutral record of their distinctive appearances. Owing to global climate

CAMILLE SEAMAN The Last Iceberg/Grand Pinnacle Iceberg, East Greenland, 2006, 2006 Epson Ultrachrome archival pigmented inkjet Courtesy of the artist

change, their future and longevity are uncertain. She analogizes icebergs to a species undergoing extinction. Camille Seaman studied photography at the State

University of New York at Purchase. In 2008, her solo exhibition The Last Iceberg was held at the National Academy of Sciences in Washington, D.C. Click to link to Camille Seaman’s website.

CAMILLE SEAMAN Stuck Under the Moon-Disko Bay, Greenland, September 2009, 2009 Epson Ultrachrome archival pigmented inkjet Courtesy of the artist

CAMILLE SEAMAN Blue Underside Revealed II Svalbard, July 5, 2010, 2010 Epson Ultrachrome archival pigmented inkjet Courtesy of the artist

CAMILLE SEAMAN Breaching Iceberg - Greenland, August 8, 2008, 2008 Epson Ultrachrome archival pigmented inkjet Courtesy of the artist

CAMILLE SEAMAN Iceberg with Seal Blood – Qasiarsuq, Greenland, September 2009, 2009 Epson Ultrachrome archival pigmented inkjet Courtesy of the artist

Selections from Caleb Cain Marcus’s Portraits of Ice series blur the

Caleb Cain Marcus earned an MFA

boundaries between painting and photography and upend commonplace

from Columbia University. His work is

representations of glaciers as awe-inspiring, forbidding landscapes. Long-

represented in such collections as the

exposure, low-horizon photographs of glacial landscapes from Norway,

Metropolitan Museum of Art, Cooper

Iceland, and Alaska reveal the signature appearances of these icy terrains

Union in New York, and the High

created over the millennia and situate us as viewers, precariously in the

Museum of Art in Atlanta.

foreground. Click to link to Caleb Cain Marcus’ Marcus’s minimalist photographs of glaciers from the Arctic are stylistically


complex and hard won, the result of long treks into the wilderness. While they communicate information about the distinct, different appearances of specific glaciers at specific times in human history, his photographs are hardly documentary. Marcus believes that, like the creation of imagery in poetry, his audience plays an important role in creating meaning in his work. Temporally, a photograph for Marcus is not born the moment the shutter is released; it has existed in the mind of its creator and in the location of the exposure long before the two met. Blurring the line between traditions of landscape photography and painting, Marcus’s compositions feature low horizon lines and expansive skies, indicative of pastoral landscape painting. The viewer is situated in the place of the photographer, simultaneously on top of the glacier and at the bottom of the composition, face-to-face with a new kind of Sublime landscape as cipher for our emotions about ice.

left: CALEB CAIN MARCUS Fjallsjökull, Iceland, Plate I, 2010 Pigment fiber print Courtesy of the artist left: CALEB CAIN MARCUS Sheridan Alaska, Plate II, 2010 Pigment fiber print Courtesy of the artist

CALEB CAIN MARCUS Nigardsbreen, Norway, Plate I, 2011 Pigment fiber prints Courtesy of the artist

CALEB CAIN MARCUS S贸lheimaj枚kull, Iceland, Plate III, 2010 Pigment fiber print Courtesy of the artist

Veteran landscape painter and photographer

and on foot—in the way 19th century

Diane Burko travelled to both the North and

landscape painters painted en-plein-

South poles in 2013 and to Iceland and Alaska

air, to capture the effects of light and

in recent years. Her representational paintings

shadow in color. She has also borrowed

and aerial photographs of “extreme landscapes”

scientists’ photographic documentation

are informed by historical and contemporary

of numerous glaciers and ice flows to

scientific images yet guided by her intuitive

use as source material.

search for the edges of representation and an

Burko’s work in this exhibition

expression of geological time.

is a fusion of her painterly and photographic visions. All the

Burko’s aerial images of glaciers and icebergs

photographs come from a recent

from eastern Greenland and northern Norway

expedition she made to the High

included here disrupt the experiential space-

Arctic while accompanying a Norwegian

time continuum of documentary photography

glaciologist measuring ice core samples.

through their close-up, fragmentary, or

The paintings are all based on photographs

disembodied perspectives. Her painterly

taken by both the artist and two scientists

compositions and interest in the natural

she befriended, as well as NASA satellite

chiaroscuro of Arctic light and shadow interpret

imagery, all of one massive, 46-square-

the changing landscape in new ways that

mile-large iceberg that had broken off

require close looking at patterns and textures.

from Petermann Glacier in Greenland and was tracked by NASA on its journey to the

Burko was introduced to aerial photography by

north Atlantic.

the conceptual artist James Turrell in the New Mexico desert in the late 1970s. Since then, she

Only aerial photography can capture the

has used her own photography—from the air

enormity and overall form of a particular

DIANE BURKO Kronbreen Glacier composite, 2013 Eight color photographs Courtesy of the artist

glacier. Photographing from a small helicopter used by glaciologists in northern Norway, Burko’s lower elevation hovering over the “tongue” of the Kronebreen Glacier reveals the abstraction of lines created by crevasses and the depth of these mountains of ice. A composite of photographic moments in time taken one afternoon in September allows us to peer down into glacial time while suspended above in real, human time. The square format of the prints further removes our physical identification with the landscape subject, offering us “macro” patterns and “micro” textures simultaneously. Like records kept by an explorer, these photographs are imbued with her own memories of encounters with glacial forms, “terrain,” she says, “that embodies the history of

DIANE BURKO Kverkfjöll, 2003 Oil on canvas Collection of Kenneth A. Aidekman

our planet.” Diane Burko earned an MFA from the University of Pennsylvania in 1969. She taught at the Community College of Philadelphia from 1973 to 2000; and taught as a visiting professor at Princeton University in 1985 and Colorado’s Anderson Ranch Arts Center in 1996. Her work is in numerous institutional and private collections across the United States. Click to link to Diane Burko’s website.

DIANE BURKO Petermann Heading South (After NASA, 2010-11), 2012 Oil on canvas Courtesy of the artist

DIANE BURKO Petermann 2009 to 2011 (after Jason Box, Alun Hubbard and DIane Burko), 2012-2013 Oil on canvas Courtesy of the artist

opposite page: DIANE BURKO On the Crevasse, 2013 Archival inkjet print Courtesy of the artist (also pictured on front cover)

Selections from this French-born,

island village bare against

Los Angeles-based documentary

increasingly brutal annual storms.

photographer’s year-long project

One image, Mingasson observes,

The End of Shishmaref tell the

can uncover the essential core of

story of an endangered way of

a story. That central part is always

life for a western Alaskan Arctic

a human one for him. 1This series

island village, whose inhabitants

offers an unabridged sense of a

are considering the prospect of

place and a time.

relocation before scientists predict the island’s disappearance due to

Gilles Mingasson studied

global warming by the year 2017.

photojournalism in France, and he has worked all over

For photojournalist Mingasson,

the world. His series The End of

photography always tells a

Shishmaref was featured at New

story. This series documents a

York City’s International Center

precarious moment (the year

of Photography and was later

2008) in the lives of the Inupiat

featured in an exhibit sponsored

Eskimos of Shishmaref, a coastal

by the United Nations.

village just south of the Arctic Circle. Global warming is directly

Click to link to Gilles Mingasson’s

threatening the Inupiat, hindering


the formation of a protective ice pack and leaving their GILLES MINGASSON The End of Shishmaref (Alaskan Arctic Circle), 2008 Twelve color photographs Courtesy of the artist

Selections from Subhankar Banerjee’s Oil and the Caribou photographic

Lannan Foundation, the Greenleaf Artist Award from the United Nations

series, shot in the Alaska Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, and Even and

Environment Programme, National Conservation Achievement Award from

the Climate series, taken in the Verkhoyansk Range in Siberia, the coldest

National Wildlife Federation, and a Special Achievement Award from Sierra

inhabited place on Earth, focus on the impact of climate change on


indigenous Arctic communities’ subsistence way of life and migratory wildlife in the early 21st century. Banerjee has spent months at a time in the Arctic for the projects these photographs represent. For as long as he has been a photographer, he has been moved by open landscapes, the vastness of which is not always visible from the ground. He finds that aerial photography represents this best. A spirit of conservationism that has inspired numerous American photographers, such as Ansel Adams and Elliot Porter, motivates him. But rather than emphasize a Sublime landscape untouched by and impervious to humans, Banerjee’s work aims to faithfully represent the peoples and wildlife that populate the land. Spending as much time as he has in these environments, Banerjee has observed how the Arctic imposes a peculiar sense of time on the human subject within it. As a necessity of survival, he says that one must slow down one’s own body—a surprising challenge for non-natives of this polar region. Subhankar Banerjee was born near Calcutta, India and obtained two graduate degrees in the sciences at New Mexico State University before switching careers in favor of photography and writing. Banerjee has received many awards, including a Cultural Freedom Fellowship from the

Click to link to Subhankar Banerjee’s website.

Artist’s Note: The Teshekpuk Lake and its surrounding wetlands in the northcentral Alaskan Arctic comprise one of the most important wetland complexes and goose molting habitats in the circumpolar North. The Teshekpuk Lake wetlands provide habitat for molting geese from three nations, Mexico, Canada and Siberia; and nesting birds from six continents. As many as 37,000 brant–up to 30% of all Pacific brant–gather each summer to molt north and east of the lake. These brants come from elsewhere on the North Slope of Alaska, the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta to the south, the western Canadian high Arctic, and Siberia. Numbers of greater white-fronted geese molting at Teshekpuk Lake are increasing and range as high as 35,000. These geese are part of the mid-continental population, wintering in gulf coastal states and Mexico. Thousands of Canada and snow geese also gather to molt in the safety of this unique wetland complex. The United States Government has made strong effort in the past few years to open up the entire 1.7 million acres of the Teshekpuk Lake special area to oil and gas development. The Inupiat people of the North Slope who depend on this wetland oppose development in the most sensitive caribou and geese habitats. In recent years, this wetland has become one of the most contested public lands in the United States. In addition to the threat of development, the international scientific community is projecting serious impact on many bird species from climate change, as important breeding and nesting areas are projected to decrease sharply as treeline advances northward, encroaching on the tundra, and because timing of bird arrival in the Arctic might no longer coincide with the availability of their insect food sources. At the same time sea-level rise will erode tundra extent from the north further shrinking important habitat for many species.

SUBHANKAR BANERJEE Brant and Snow Geese with Chicks, 2006 Digital chromogenic print Collection of the Lannan Foundation

Artist’s Note: The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the core calving area of the Porcupine River caribou herd. It is also the most debated public land in the United States history–whether to open up this land to oil and gas development or to preserve it has been raging in the halls of the United States Congress for over thirty years. This caribou herd has symbolized the Arctic Refuge–both for its ecological and cultural significance. Individual caribou from this herd may travel more than three thousand miles during their yearly movements, making it one of the longest terrestrial migrations of any land animal on the planet. Numerous indigenous communities living within the range of the herd have depended on the caribou for subsistence food. The Gwich'in people of Alaska, and the northern Yukon and Northwest Territories in Canada, live on or near the migratory route of this herd, have relied upon the caribou for many millennia to meet their subsistence as well as cultural and spiritual needs. The Gwich'in are caribou people. They call the calving ground of the caribou “Iizhik Gwats'an Gwandaii Goodlit” (The Sacred Place Where Life Begins). To open up the caribou calving ground to oil and gas development is a human-rights issue for the Gwich'in Nation. In addition to the perceived threat of oil development in their calving ground, this caribou herd has been severely impacted by climate change in recent years. International scientific community has stated that climate change has impacted this herd more than most of the other large caribou herds across the circumpolar Arctic. Their numbers has declined steadily at a 3.5% per year since 1989 from 178,000 animals to a low of 123,000 in 2001. Warmer, wetter autumn resulting in more frequent icing conditions; warmer, wetter winter resulting in deeper and denser snow; and warmer spring resulting in more freeze-thaw days and faster spring melt are among the key negative climate change impacts on the caribou and their habitat. In the photograph pregnant females are migrating over Coleen River on the south side of the Brooks Range Mountain on their way to the coastal plain for calving.

SUBHANKAR BANERJEE At the Corral-Nikolayev Matvey Gathering Reindeer from the series Even and The Climate, 2009 Digital chromogenic print face-mounted to Plexiglas Courtesy of the Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire; Purchased through the Mrs. Harvey P. Hood W’18 Fund

opposite page: SUBHANKAR BANERJEE Caribou Migration I, from the Oil and the Caribou series, 2008 Digital chromogenic print Courtesy of the artist; (also pictured on page 1-2)

Artist’s Note: Caribou (North American forms of Rangifer tarandus) and reindeer (Eurasian forms of the same species) are of primary importance to people throughout the Arctic for food, shelter, fuel, tools, and other cultural items. Caribou and reindeer herds depend on the availability of abundant tundra vegetation and good foraging conditions, especially during the calving season. Climate-induced changes to arctic tundra are projected to cause vegetation zones to shift significantly northward, reducing the area of tundra and the traditional forage for these herds. Freeze-thaw cycles and freezing rain are also projected to increase. These changes will have significant implications for the ability of the caribou and reindeer populations to find food and raise calves. Future climate change could thus mean a potential decline in caribou and reindeer populations, threatening human nutrition for many indigenous households and a whole way of life for some arctic communities. We spent eight days during November 2007 in the Tomponski Region of the Verkhoyansk Range in Siberia, considered the coldest inhabited place on Earth. One evening we had a long chat with Nikolayev Matvey, head of camp 11 there. He talked about his perceptions of climate change and its impacts on his people. He observes that the snow is now wetter than it ever used to be. It used to be very cold and very dry snow. Now they have wetter snow, at times it is creating a thin layer of ice on top of the snow that the reindeer finds difficult to forage through. He said he has to take the reindeers higher up in the mountain to find food at times during winter months. He also talked about the willows are growing taller and bushier and this at times impacts reindeers’ migration and Matvey said they may change their routes. Subhankar Banerjee’s Siberia visit in November 2007 was made possible by an assignment from the Vanity Fair magazine. The story appeared in May 2008 issue with text by Alex Shoumatoff.

A selection of “straight” photographic diptychs from the German artist Olaf Otto Becker’s Under the Nordic Light: A Journey Through Time project (originally published as a book in 2005 with a second edition in 2012) documents traces of subtle change in the Icelandic landscape from identical vantage points and weather conditions over a period of ten years, thereby capturing the “mood” of a quintessential landscape in flux. These four sets of photographs of the Icelandic landscape–one of the most geologically dynamic in the world, with 30 glaciated, active volcanoes–were taken from the exact same viewpoints ten years apart. Becker describes returning to a place after ten years as “visiting an old friend.” Surprisingly, some sites lacked

(the photographer’s vision) onto geological

completed a fellowship and artist’s residency in

temporality (visible or imperceptible changes in

Rossiniere, Switzerland.

the landscape’s appearance), revealing “glacial time.”

any apparent change, while others had changed dramatically–prompting us as viewers to consider how we perceive and gauge the passing of time. These diptych pairings superimpose human temporality

Olaf Otto Becker was trained as a designer before he became a photographer. A native German, he is currently based in Munich but he works and travels all over the world. He recently

Click to link to Olaf Otto Becker’s website.

OTTO OLAF BECKER left: Örxfajökull glacier tongue, Iceland 07/1999 right: Örxfajökull glacier tongue, Iceland 07/2011, 19992011

Archival pigmented inkjet prints Courtesy of the artist

opposite page: OLAF OTTO BECKER left: coming from high tide 07/2002 5:00 a.m. right: going to high tide 07/2011 5:00 a.m., 1999-2011 Archival pigmented inkjet prints Courtesy of the artist

OTTO OLAF BECKER left: F208 Iceland 07/1999 right: F208 Iceland 07/2011, 1999-2011

Archival pigmented inkjet prints Courtesy of the artist

OTTO OLAF BECKER left: Örxfajökull glacier, Iceland 07/1999 right: Örxfajökull glacier, Iceland 07/2011, 1999-2011

Archival pigmented inkjet prints Courtesy of the artist

Los Angeles-based artist Joan Perlman has a

of human scale, hones in on the remnants of

longstanding fondness for Iceland. Since first

that trajectory, the melting of glacial ice in salt

visiting in 1995, Iceland’s compelling geology

waters. Made through multiple trips to a glacial

has inspired her to create abstract paintings

lagoon and other sites off the North Atlantic

and more recently, video installations. Perlman

Ocean, What Remains is a visual elegy to the

often starts with photographic studies of the

melancholic beauty of melting ice.

Icelandic landscape. These photographs are part of her painterly process, not artworks in

Joan Perlman earned an MFA from the San

themselves. Gradually, she began to see the

Francisco Art Institute in California. She has had

camera as a haptic extension of her vision, a

numerous solo exhibitions at such institutions

tool that allows for a more immediate, visceral

as the University of Virginia, David Cunningham

connection between the viewer and her subject,

Projects in San Francisco, the Hafnarborg

the melting of ice in Iceland’s glacial lagoons

Museum in Iceland, and a 2008 show at Fringe

and rivers. Digital video narrates the temporal

Exhibitions in Los Angeles.

process of ice melting in real time through the technical process of editing.

Click to link to Joan Perlman’s website.

Rather than capturing the panoramic majesty of Iceland’s glacial run-off in enormous waterfalls and raging rivers leading to the ocean, Perlman’s ruminative 10-minute video, shot close-up at eye-level with few markers

JOAN PERLMAN What Remains, 2011 HD Video, 9 minutes, 51 seconds Courtesy of the artist

Painter Resa Blatman appropriates digital

Boston-based artist Resa

images of glaciers, icebergs, tree branches,

Blatman earned her MFA

and other natural forms and then intricately

in painting from Boston

constructs “unnatural” landscapes at once

University in 2006. Her

fractured and realistic. Part of her Changing

paintings are in public

Environment series, these sensuously painted

and private collections

relief constructions project into the viewer’s

throughout the United

physical space, grab our attention, and evoke a

States and abroad.

“metaphorical sound like the poetic violence of

She teaches at the

an iceberg cracking.”

Massachusetts College of Art and Design.

Resa Blatman’s fractured and layered relief paintings are suggestive of landscapes in flux. Her relationship to the first-hand observation

Click to link to Resa

of these glacial landscapes is heavily

Blatman’s website.

mediated, like most people’s relationship to the environment. Blatman’s quintessentially post-modern paintings are montages of altered, appropriated photographs representing narrative time as layered. They seem both timeless and apocalyptic. These beautiful yet ominous paintings offer both a premonition and a requiem for a fragile environment–a melancholic Sublime.

RESA BLATMAN In Memoriam, 2013 Oil and glitter on laser-cut PVC; oil on wood oval panels Courtesy of the artist

RESA BLATMAN Arctic Dust Cloud, 2013 Oil on layered, laser-cut PVC Courtesy of the artist

RESA BLATMAN Glisten, 2013 Oil and glitter on layered, laser-cut PVC Courtesy of the artist


Installation photography courtesy of Alex Azan

Climate Change in the Arctic Subhankar Banerjee

Caleb Cain Marcus

Olaf Otto Becker

Gilles Mingasson

Resa Blatman

Joan Perlman

Diane Burko

Camille Seaman

TUFTS UNIVERSITY ART GALLERY @ The Shirley and Alex Aidekman Arts Center 40 Talbot Avenue Medford, MA 02155 617-627-3518

Š Tufts University Art Gallery, 2014; Design by Jeanne V. Koles

Profile for Tufts University Art Gallery

Seeing Glacial Time: Climate Change in the Arctic  

Seeing Glacial Time: Climate Change in the Arctic  


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