A marriage of art and nature


What: "Surge" Open House

When: 11 am Sat., Dec. 1

Where: Museum of Northwest Art, La Conner


Events include “Movement and Climate Resistance” (11am), an Artist Talk with Suze Woolf (1pm), “Upcycled Book Art” (1:30pm), and a “Knit-a-Long” with the Tempestry Project (3:30pm). Please RSVP for workshops.

Cost: Free


Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Who doesn’t love art? Who doesn’t love nature?

“Surge,” at the Museum of Northwest Art (MoNA) in La Conner through early January, happily marries them. In this popular installation, environmental scientists contribute discussion of climate change and artists step up with illustrations. Some are cryptic, some whimsical, others simply beautiful. 

The tone is gentle, the assumptions being that global warming can be mitigated and that nature can adapt.

Paintings and 3D installations illustrate ocean shores, rivers and glaciers. Phillip Govedare’s landscapes from an aerial perspective illustrate “our true global footprint,” showing how human activity has reshaped the earth’s surface. Mary Ashton illustrates the shrinkage of glaciers with a series of Japanese-style block prints entitled “Glacier Regression.”

A glistening mobile sculpture by Margot Meyer calls attention to the importance of diatoms in the formation of estuarine marshes. At the near-microscopic level, these single-cell organisms stabilize the river/ocean interface by “gluing” sediments together, building up tidal marshes where tiny aquatic animals become a food source for sandpipers and plovers. 

In the Glass Gallery, Mary Coss exhibits her “ghost meadow” to mourn a bulrush marsh killed by saltwater flooding. She contrasts this with a salt, cement and plaster mockup of human artifacts, perhaps overwhelmed by a king tide.

Oriental chimes and the call of thrushes and the olive-sided flycatcher welcome visitors to the second floor, where the focus is on forests and temperature measurement. Rachel Lodge hand-painted each frame of “Inhale/Exhale” and programmed them to create an engrossing video that illustrates leaves taking in atmospheric CO2, using the carbon to build wood, and releasing oxygen back into the air. 

In another video, Suze Woolf describes making her “Bark Beetle Books” out of the “hieroglyphic” tunnels chewed by bark beetles, and they beautifully memorialize the destruction of our western lodgepole pine forests.

The fused glass sculptures by Lin McJunkin may be her most beautiful work to date. “World Wide Web” illustrates roots reaching into the soil. “The Fire This Time,” is a glowing disk, abstract, but suggesting a figure who flees from fire below and weapons above. And don’t miss the dynamic abstract paintings by Jazz Morgan and Ann Vandervelde inspired by Henry David Thoreau’s words on the wonderful power of seeds.

The bright weavings of the “Tempestry Project” arise out of an international undertaking to illustrate climate data in a tangible and beautiful way. Emily McNeill, and Justin and Marissa Connelly, have mapped in tapestry the daily high temperatures at a Washington state location over a period of years. The greens indicate lower maximums, yellow to orange, higher.

Downstairs once more, “boats” hover overhead, accompanied by a soundscape encouraging us to experience the passage of time. Erica Grimm and Tracie Stewart made them out of branches, “wild-sourced” elk hide, cheesecloth, beeswax, salt, sinew, binder twine—plus bathymetric maps and LEDs—to mimic the ones used by ancient peoples on their expeditions to discover new lands.

They suggest that we are already underwater. Can we paddle our way to safety?

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