Endangered Art

From Whatcom to Western

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

While admiring the gothic, multi-layered beauty of Isabella Kirkland’s oil painting “Gone,” I came to a horrible realization concerning every one of the 63 species of animals and plants depicted in the masterwork on display as part of the “Endangered Species: Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity” exhibit currently showing at Whatcom Museum’s Lightcatcher Building.

In a list found to the right of the painting, visitors are informed that all of these species are now extinct. Gone is the small minnow known as the thicktail chub, the Carolina parakeet, passenger pigeons, many species of fresh water mussels, Bachman’s warbler, the double-banded Argus pheasant, the golden toad, the long-tailed hopping mouse, and the white-footed rabbit rat. And the list goes on—including a roundup of plants that can no longer be found on our increasingly fragile planet.

Through the work of 60 artists celebrating biodiversity’s beauty and probing the causes threatening it, the exhibit viewed as a whole is both chilling and fascinating.

Patrons will see the works of famed ornithologist, naturalist and painter John James Audubon and realize that although his detailed illustrations of North American birds in their natural habitat helped document them, he typically hunted, killed and posed them before painting them.

They’ll also find out that famed pop artist Andy Warhol was a harbinger of hope in the fight to keep endangered species alive, and that he rendered the orangutan, black rhinoceros, bighorn ram, Grevey’s zebra, and other animals featured in the exhibit in bold colors that resembled his celebrity portraits, giving them “movie star auras” that called attention to their vulnerable status.

Among the recycled chicken bones, coral reef re-creations, wooly mammoths, dinosaur depictions, fearsome wolf pelts, dodo displays and further evidence of how humans and nature are working in tandem to debilitate the planet, visitors will also find positive steps that are being taken to climate change and the loss of biodiversity.

By drawing attention to things like citizen-science projects that help scientists obtain data on pollution and other environmental issues, to solar power breakthroughs, and Marine Protected Areas that have been designated through the world, the exhibit curated by Barbara Matilsky offers solutions in a time of chaos and uncertainty. Plus, related events happening regularly through early December on everything from waterfronts as contested spaces, to gallery tours with Matilsky, to talks on climate change impacts in the Pacific Northwest and the recovery of the American bald eagle, are on the roster.

On the way to view “The Elephant in the Room: The Allure of Ivory and its Tragic Legacy” at Whatcom Museum’s Old City Hall, I stopped by Make.Shift Art Space on Flora Street to view a related exhibit, “Force,” which explores the relationship between humans and nature. I was especially taken with Mattie Rose Templeton’s “The Perch,” which merges the two factions in unexpected ways.

“Organic Reaction” at Allied Arts, “Boneyard and Bloom” at Lynden’s Jansen Art Center, and the upcoming “Surge” exhibit at La Conner’s Museum’s of Northwest Art have (or will have) related creative content. And when Western Washington University’s Western Gallery opens “Modest Forms of Biocultural Hope” Wed., Sept. 26, it will dovetail with the “Artists on the Front Line of Biodiversity” theme.

By asking if species can thrive together, and if humans can learn from nature to remediate environmental problems, the fall exhibition attempts to answer these questions through four art installations that explore the complex relationships between biology and culture.

“Rather than dejection at the enormity of the challenges, they offer concrete and creative efforts,” a recent press release says. “Rather than sweeping geoengineering schemes, they offer modest forms of biocultural hope. What the ecological thinker Donna Haraway has written about one of the projects—Margaret and Christine Wertheim’s ‘Crochet Coral Forest’—is true of them all: ‘[These are] not projects of melancholy and mourning. These are figures of response-ability.”

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Bellingham at Home Informational Meeting

1:00pm|Bellingham Senior Activity Center

Endangered Species Curator's Tour

1:30pm|Whatcom Museum's Lightcatcher Building

Sedro-Woolley Farmers Market

3:00pm|Hammer Heritage Square

Prosecutors race is a referendum on reform


Creekside Open Mic

6:30pm|South Whatcom Library

Where the sidewalk ends


Walking to the End of the World

7:00pm|Village Books

Brian Dean Trio

7:00pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Climate Change and Forests

7:00pm|Sustainable Living Center

Modified documentary and Panel Discussion

7:30pm|Pickford Film Center

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Parkinson's Dance Class

10:00am|Ballet Bellingham

Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Komo Kulshan Ski Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan

Jazz Jam

5:30pm|Illuminati Brewing

Camber Exhcange

5:30pm|1820 Scout Place

Falling Out of the Box Jewelry Challenge

6:00pm|Jansen Art Center

Squash Celebration

6:30pm|Community Food Co-op

Chuckanut Radio Hour

6:30pm|Whatcom Community College

Balkan Folk Dancers

7:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Nooksack River Travelogue

7:00pm|Whatcom Museum's Old City Hall

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

7:30pm|Upfront Theatre

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Duck Variations

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

The Skriker

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Side Show

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

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Fall Craft & Antique Show

10:00am|Northwest Washington Fairgrounds

Komo Kulshan Ski Swap

4:00pm|Bloedel Donovan

The Duck Variations

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying

7:30pm|Anacortes Community Theatre

The Skriker

7:30pm|Sylvia Center for the Arts

Side Show

7:30pm|Lincoln Theatre

Wild Things

9:30am|Stimpson Family Nature Reserve

Cider Days


Fall Family Weekend

12:00pm|Western Washington University

Books and Bites

1:00pm|Blaine Library

Food Not Bombs

4:00pm|Downtown Bellingham

Spaghetti Feed

5:00pm|Ferndale Senior Center

Bread and Puppet Theater

5:00pm|Laurel Park

Paper mache and politics


Family Story Night

6:00pm|Fairhaven Library

Gore and Lore Tours

6:00pm|Downtown Bellingham, historic Fairhaven

Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

7:00pm|Blaine High School

Friday Night Flicks

7:00pm|Van Zandt Community Hall

Pride and Prejudice

7:00pm|Lynden Christian High School

A Night with Miguel de Hoyos

7:00pm|Kennelly Keys

Laura Read and Friends

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Daily Dying

7:00pm|Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship


7:30pm|McIntyre Hall


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Teton Gravity Research

7:30pm|Mount Baker Theatre

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