The Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington is currently showing the exhibition Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art, 1775-2012. Curated by Barbara Matilsky, with an accompanying catalogue distributed by University of Washington Press, the exhibition provides a 200-year overview of artists’ responses to the enduring fascination that frigid and isolated places seem to exert on the human imagination. While climate change is, at least in the public consciousness, a relatively recent concern, our desire to conquer the poles is not. In that context, it is interesting to step back and look at the evolution of Arctic imagery, from early 18th century romantic depictions of forbidden landscapes to contemporary works highlighting the vulnerability and fragility of polar environments. Artists from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Russia, Switzerland and the United States are represented. Notable among them are Arctic veteran photographers James Balog, whose ambitious project Extreme Ice Survey was recently featured in the documentary Chasing Ice; Subhankar Banerjee, a leading voice on issues of arctic conservation, indigenous human rights, resource development and climate change; Gary Braasch and his World View of Global Warming project; and David Buckland, founder of the British organization Cape Farewell.
After Bellingham, Vanishing Ice will travel to the El Paso Museum of Art in Texas in June 2014, and to the McMichael Canadian Art Collection in Ontario, Canada in January 2015. Additional venues are in the works.
Chantal Bilodeau is a playwright and translator whose work focuses on the intersection of science, policy, art, and climate change. She is the Artistic Director of The Arctic Cycle – an organization created to support the writing, development and production of eight plays that look at the social and environmental changes taking place in the eight countries of the Arctic – and the founder of the blog and international network Artists & Climate Change. She is a co-organizer of Climate Change Theatre Action, a worldwide series of readings and performances of short climate change plays presented in support of the United Nations COP meetings.