Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art 1775-2012

Februrary 11 – May 11, 2016

In its first show of 2016, the David Brower Center presents Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art 1775-2012, a multi-media exhibition tracing the effects of frozen landscapes on artistic imaginations over two hundred years. From the records of early naturalistic voyages to contemporary scientific and stylized representations, the artworks in Vanishing Ice present the romance, fragility, force and vulnerability of frozen ice, glaciers, ice fields, and the ecologies they found and inspire. Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art 1775-2012 consists of work selected by Dr. Barbara Matilsky, curator of art at the Whatcom Museum.

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Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art, 1775-2012 is organized by the Whatcom Museum. Major funding for the exhibition has been provided by the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts with additional support from the Norcliffe Foundation, the Washington State Arts Commission, and the City of Bellingham.


Top Graphic: Grotto in berg, Terra Nova in the distance by Herbert Ponting, 1911 (c) Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, England; Fissure 2 (Antartica) from Sans Nom by Jean de Pomereu, 2008, courtesy of the Whatcom Museum, gift of the artist; River 2, 07, Position 1, Greenland Icecap, Melting Area, Altitude 931m from Above Zero by Olaf Otto Becker, 2008, courtesy of the artist; Grand Pinnacle Iceberg, East Greenland, from the Last Iceberg by Camille Seaman, 2006, courtesy of the artist and Richard Heller Gallery, Santa Monica

About the Exhibition

The concept for Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art 1775-2012 can be traced back nearly three decades. Curator Dr. Barbara Matilsky was writing her doctorial dissertation on French sublime landscapes, and saw an opportunity to connect both historical and contemporary artists in their inspiration of the poles and mountain glaciers. As Matilsky further explored this concept the more interdisciplinary connections she discovered. Matilsky says of this kinship, “Losing these landscapes would be a loss not only to the planet and its wildlife but also a major loss to culture.”  The exhibition premiered at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, WA in March 2014 and has continued on to The El Paso Museum of Art in TX and the McMicael Canadian Art Collection in Kleinburg, Ontario; Canada.

Learn more about the history of the exhibition here.


Featured Artists

Heather Ackroyd and Dan Harvey
For 25 years, Ackroyd & Harvey’s work has been exhibited in contemporary art galleries, museums and public spaces worldwide; sculpture, photography, architecture, ecology and biology are disciplines that intersect in their work, revealing an intrinsic bias towards process and event. Often reflecting environmental and scientific concerns, they are acclaimed for large-scale interventions in sites of architectural interest, acknowledging political ecologies by highlighting the temporal nature of processes of growth and decay in the urban space – in 2013 they grew the stone façade of a former British military building in Derry, N. Ireland for the City of Culture; ten years earlier they grew the soaring vertical interior of a deconsecrated church in London and in 2007 created a monumental living intervention on the exterior of the Royal National Theatre. In 2011, they were awarded the prestigious Mapping the Park commission for London 2012, a series of living sculptures entitled History Trees at ten of the major entrances into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

Lita Albuquerque
Lita Albuquerque is an internationally renowned installation, environmental artist, painter and sculptor. She was born in Santa Monica, California and raised in Tunisia, North Africa and Paris, France. At the age of eleven she settled with her family in the U.S. In the 1970s Albuquerque emerged on the California art scene as part of the Light and Space movement and won acclaim for her epic and poetic ephemeral pigment pieces created for desert sites. She gained national attention in the late 1970s with her ephemeral pigment installations pertaining to mapping, identity and the cosmos, executed in the natural landscape.Completing an ambitious array of public projects over the past decade, Albuquerque has been commissioned to work in locations including: Gannett Publishers, McLean, Virginia; The Evo De Concini Federal Courthouse, Tucson, AZ; and Palos Verdes Central Library, CA. Her latest large scale ephemeral Earth Art work Stellar Axis: Antarctica, a star map of blue orbs on ice installed on the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica in 2006 combines art with science and examines the human connection with the cosmos and the possibility of light as that link. She is the recipient of numerous grants and awards including A National Science Foundation Grant in the Artists and Writers Program and the Cairo Biennale Prize at the Sixth International Cairo Biennale.

Subhankar Banerjee
Subhankar Banerjee is an Indian born American photographer, writer and activist. Over the past decade he has been a leading voice on issues of Arctic conservation, indigenous human rights, resource wars and climate change. He has also done work in the American southwest that addresses desert ecology, and forest deaths from climate change. His current research focuses on the intersection of ecocultural activism and environmental humanities—environmental philosophy, environmental history and ecocriticism. His photographs, writing and lectures have reached millions of people around the world.

Olaf Otto Becker
Born 1959 in Travemünde, Northern Germany, Olaf Otto Becker studied communication design focusing on photography in Augsburg and philosophy and religious studies in Munich. After his studies he worked as a freelance designer and photographer. Since 2003 he realizes his own self assigned projects and is a regular contributor for the New York Times Magazine. Since his first book “Unter dem Licht des Nordens“, released in 2005 together with Markus Schaden, he published four impressive volumes, the last of them being the highly praised and reviewed “Reading the Landscape” (Hatje Cantz, 2014), where he, after realizing all his previous projects (Under the Nordic light, Broken line, Above Zero) in arctic regions decided to go into the tropical rain forest.

Francois-Auguste Biard
François-Auguste Biard was a French genre painter. His painting, “Scenes on the Coast of Africa,” was the inspiration behind Isaac Julien’s short film The Attendant. Biard was a known abolitionist against the Atlantic slave trade.

David Breashears
David Breashears is an accomplished filmmaker, explorer, author, mountaineer, and professional speaker. He is also the founder and Executive Director of GlacierWorks, a non-profit organization that uses art, science, and adventure to raise public awareness about the consequences of climate change in the Greater Himalayan Region. Since 1978, he has combined his skills in climbing and filmmaking to complete more than forty film projects.

David Buckland
David Buckland’s work is included in the permanent collections of the National Portrait Gallery, London, the Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, the Michael Wilson Collection, London and the Metropolitan Museum of New York. Buckland curated ‘eARTh’ for the Royal Academy 2009, U-n-f-o-l-d for Cape Farewell 2010, and Carbon 12 for Paris 2012, Carbon 13 for the Ballroom, Marfa Texas 2012, London 2009. He produced the films ‘Art from the Arctic’ 2006 for the BBC and ‘Burning Ice’ for Sundance, 2010.

Frederic Edwin Church
Frederic Edwin Church was an American landscape painter born in Hartford, Connecticut. He was a central figure in the Hudson River School of American landscape painters, perhaps best known for painting large panoramic landscapes, often depicting mountains, waterfalls, and sunsets, but also sometimes depicting dramatic natural phenomena that he saw during his travels to the Arctic and Central and South America.

Lawren Harris
Lawren Stewart Harris was a Canadian painter. He was born in Brantford, Ontario and is best known as a member the Group of Seven who pioneered a distinctly Canadian painting style in the early twentieth century. During the 1920s, Harris’s works became more abstract and simplified, especially his stark landscapes of the Canadian north and Arctic.

Helen and Newton Harrison
Among the leading pioneers of the eco-art movement, the collaborative team of Newton and Helen Mayer Harrison (often referred to simply as “the Harrisons”) have worked for almost forty years with biologists, ecologists, architects, urban planners and other artists to initiate collaborative dialogues to uncover ideas and solutions which support biodiversity and community development. The Harrisons’ concept of art embraces a breathtaking range of disciplines. They are historians, diplomats, ecologists, investigators, emissaries and art activists. Their work involves proposing solutions and involves not only public discussion, but extensive mapping and documentation of these proposals in an art context.

Frank Hurley
James Francis “Frank” Hurley was an Australian photographer and adventurer. He participated in a number of expeditions to Antarctica and served as an official photographer with Australian forces during both world wars.

Chris Linder
Chris Linder is a professional photographer, filmmaker, and lecturer.  Chris holds a Master’s degree in oceanography from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and maintains a part-time affiliation with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution as a Research Associate. His education and training as a researcher provide a special insight into photographing science. For over a decade, Chris has focused on communicating the stories of scientists working in the Arctic and Antarctic. He has documented dozens of scientific expeditions and has spent two full years of his life exploring the polar regions.

Anna McKee
Anna McKee is a visual artist living and working in Seattle. Her art is an exploration of memories that accumulate in the physical world; specifically where human history intersects a longer time span. Currently, she is creating a series of drawings and prints that ponder the micro and macro scale of time and place in ice cores and glaciated environments.

Jean de Pomereu
Jean de Pomereu first visited Antarctica in 2003. He has returned on numerous occasions as a member of different artistic and scientific expeditions. Photographs from his expanding body of Antarctic work have been exhibited in galleries and museums in France, Belgium, Spain, the UK, the US, China and New Zealand. In December 2006, he was the official photographer for Lita Albuquerque’s Stellar Axis Antarctica: the largest and most ambitious arts project ever undertaken in Antarctica. In 2008-09, within the context of the 4th International Polar Year, he was the first foreigner to accompany a Chinese National Antarctic Research Expedition. With a Masters degree from the Scott Polar Research Institute, at the University of Cambridge, Jean also lectures on the visual interpretation of Antarctica, is involved in editorial projects focusing on early Antarctic photography.

Herbert G. Ponting
Herbert George Ponting was a professional photographer. He is best known as the expedition photographer and cinematographer for Robert Falcon Scott’s Terra Nova Expedition to the Ross Sea and South Pole.

Nicholas Roerich
Nicholas Roerich was a Russian painter, writer, archaeologist, theosophist, perceived by some in Russia as an enlightener, philosopher, and public figure, who in his youth was influenced by a movement in Russian society around the occult. Born in Saint Petersburg, Russia to the family of a well-to-do notary public, he lived in various places around the world until his death in Naggar, Himachal Pradesh, India. Trained as an artist and a lawyer, his main interests were literature, philosophy, archaeology, and especially art. Roerich was a dedicated activist for the cause of preserving art and architecture during times of war. He earned several nominations for the Nobel Peace Prize long list. The so-called Roerich Pact was signed into law by the United States and most nations of the Pan-American Union during April 1935.

Camille Seaman
Camille Seaman was born in 1969 to a Native American (Shinnecock tribe) father and African American mother. She graduated in 1992 from the State University of New York at Purchase, where she studied photography with Jan Groover and has since taken master workshops with Steve McCurry, Sebastiao Salgado, and Paul Fusco. Her photographs have been published in National Geographic Magazine, Italian Geo, German GEO, TIME, The New York Times Sunday magazine, Newsweek, Outside, Zeit Wissen, Men’s Journal, Seed, Camera Arts, Issues, PDN, and American Photo among many others, She frequently leads photographic and self-publishing workshops. Her photographs have received many awards including: a National Geographic Award, 2006; and the Critical Mass Top Monograph Award, 2007. In 2008 she was honored with a one-person exhibition, “The Last Iceberg” at the National Academy of Sciences, Washington DC. Camille Seaman lives in Emeryville, California, and takes photographs all over the world using digital and film cameras in multiple formats. She works in a documentary/fine art tradition and since 2003 has concentrated on the fragile environment of the Polar Regions.

Spencer Tunick
Spencer Tunick stages scenes in which the battle of nature against culture is played out against various backdrops, from civic center to desert sandstorm, man and woman are returned to a preindustrial, pre-everything state of existence.  Tunick has traveled the globe to create these still and video images of multiple nude figures in public settings. Organizing groups from a handful of participants to tens of thousands, all volunteers, is often logistically daunting; the subsequent images transcend ordinary categories and meld sculpture and performance in a new genre. Tunick’s most notable works have been commissioned by Art Basel, Switzerland (1999), Institut Cultura, Barcelona (2003), XXV Biennial de Sao Paulo, Brazil (2002), The Saatchi Gallery(2003), MOCA Cleveland (2004), Vienna Kunsthalle (2008), among others.

Major Edward Oliver Wheeler
Sir Edward Oliver Wheeler MC participated in the first topographical survey of Mount Everest in 1921. As Brigadier in the British Army he was appointed Surveyor General of India in 1941. He was knighted for the work he did surveying India. He was an accomplished mountain climber and on the 1921 expedition was one of the team to reach the 7000-meter North Col.