Group exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum

VANISHING ICE: ALPINE AND POLAR LANDSCAPES IN ART 1775-2012

Weisman Art Museum at the University of Minnesota
January 27th, 2018 – May 13th, 2018

astridXavier Cortada, “astrid,” (2007). Permanent collection of the Whatcom Museum.

Xavier Cortada’s “Astrid” painting will be on exhibit at the Weisman Art Museum in Minneapolis, MN from January 27th through May 13th, 2018 as part of the “Vanishing Ice” exhibit curated by Barbara Matilsky — see http://www.vanishing-ice.org.  You can learn more about Cortada’s piece by reading the American Art essay by Alan Braddock and Renée Ater, Art in the Anthropocene — see http://cortada.com/press/2014/AmericanArt.

Cortada, recipient of a 2006-2007 National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists and Writers fellowship, traveled to Antarctica to implement a series of projects and installations. While there, the Miami artist created “ice paintings” using sea ice and sediment samples provided to him by scientists working in Antarctica.  The artist titled the works on paper by randomly selecting the names of geographic features from a map of the continent that inspired their creation.  To learn more about the series visit http://cortada.com/2007/ice-paintings.

astrid-s

Artist: Xavier Cortada
Title: “astrid”
Series: Ice Paintings: Antarctic Sea Ice series
Medium: Sea ice from the Antarctica’s Ross Sea, sediment from Antarctica’s Dry Valleys and mixed media on paper
Size: 12 inches x 9 inches
Year: 2007
Created onsite at McMurdo Station, Ross Island, Antarctica
Permanent collection of the Whatcom Museum.

Curatorial Narrative
Barbara Matilsky, Curator of Art

VANISHING ICE will introduce the rich artistic legacy of the planet’s frozen frontiers now threatened by climate change, a phenomena understood by the public primarily through news of devastating climactic events The exhibition offers another perspective by providing visitors an opportunity to experience the majesty of sublime landscapes that have inspired artists, writers, and naturalists for more than two hundred years. Interweaving science, history and art, and highlighting their historical interrelationships, the exhibition encourages audiences to value the preservation of alpine and polar environments for the well-being of both nature and culture. Through this exhibition, visitors will begin to appreciate how strongly embedded these regions are in our collective consciousness

Comprised of 70 works of art, Vanishing Ice will unfold thematically and chronologically, tracing the visual impact of glaciers, icebergs, and fields of ice – unique and often fantastic formations – on artists’ imaginations. International in scope, the exhibition features artists from Australia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, New Zealand, Norway, Peru, Russia, Switzerland, and the United States. It will examine the connections among generations of artists as they sought to understand and interpret the color, light, and structure of ice. Through their magical landscapes, visitors will vicariously experience the blue-green hues and extraordinary shapes of another world.

The confluence of art, science and public education is one of the major themes of the exhibition. In their quest to discover new pictorial motifs, the artist-as-explorer contributed to a greater understanding of the Earth. In the wake of the large number of voyages launched during the nineteenth century, images of alpine and polar landscapes helped popularize revolutionary scientific discoveries and theories in natural history, including the concept of an Ice Age concomitant with a vision of the planet’s ancient origins. Works of art by artists such as Jean-Antoine Linck (Swiss, 1766-1843) and Louis Lebreton (French, 1818–1866) appeared in scientific publications, expeditionary atlases, travelogues, popular magazines, and exhibitions. Today, these early landscapes continue to play a major role in science by helping climatologists measure the retreat of glaciers over the centuries.

A growing number of artists are once again journeying to alpine mountain ranges and the Poles, the most salient indicators of climate change, to document the effects of global warming. The fate of retreating glaciers have been presented by many photographers, including Gary Braasch, David Breashears, and Eirik Johnson who compare their views of the Rocky Mountains, Himalayas, and Andes with historical photographs, which will also be highlighted in the exhibition. Parallel to the nineteenth-century artists’ close relationship to natural history, their images appear in a wide range of venues, including books and exhibitions, helping to visualize the dramatic effects forecast by climate scientists.

Like their nineteenth and early-twentieth century counterparts, many artists are joining government-sponsored expeditions. The US National Science Foundation provides opportunities for artists as diverse as Eliot Porter and Camille Seaman to spend time in Antarctica as a way to increase awareness of polar research. Many artists, in the spirit of Frederic Edwin Church and William Bradford, have organized their own expeditions. Since 2007, artist David Buckland has been coordinating Arctic explorations composed of artists, scientists, musicians, and writers through the Cape Farewell Project, underscoring the expanded role of the artist-activist in publicizing climate change. Seventy artists have participated to date, including Paul D. Miller/DJ Spooky, whose work will also be featured in the exhibition along with video documentation of Cape Farewell’s inaugural expedition.

Vanishing Ice also examines the stylistic evolution of alpine and polar imagery over two centuries. Within this context, the exhibition will feature the wide array of materials, media, and techniques that artists have employed to vividly capture the frozen landscape. Initially limited to drawings, prints, paintings and later photography, artists now utilize video, sound, and site-specific sculpture to interpret these environments. Among the fifty internationally recognized historical and contemporary artists included are: Ansel Adams, Otto Olaf Becker, John Grade, Lauren Harris, Frank Hurley, Issac Julien, Rockwell Kent, Alexis Rockman, and Spencer Tunick.

Vanishing Ice will reveal the transformative power of art in shaping the public’s perception of these starkly beautiful environments. Beginning in the eighteenth century, writers and painters, such as Francois-August Biard (French, 1799–1882), and Frederic Edwin Church (American, 1826–1900) contributed to a new appreciation of alpine and polar landscapes, which were once regarded with fear and now experienced on a heightened, emotional level. This quality, described as the Sublime, intersected with spirituality and was one of the defining aspects of a culture in the throes of rapid industrialization. Polar ice and glaciated mountains became metaphors for both the control of nature and correspondingly lack of control, freedom, nationalism, and more recently climate change.

While showcasing the art, Vanishing Ice will present layers of information through illustrated text panels, graphs, maps and a multi-disciplinary time line featuring milestones in art, literature, science, exploration, and mountaineering, which will help visitors grasp the history of alpine and polar regions and their significance for Western culture. An introductory video, produced by the City of Bellingham’s TV10, will be aired in the gallery and broadcast on the cable channel. Quotes by artists, scientists, writers, and explorers will be strategically placed throughout the galleries to augment the key ideas and messages of the exhibition. The exhibition will feature interpretive graphics for understanding why the Arctic, Antarctica, and glaciers are so critical for maintaining a balanced, planetary ecosystem and suggest what individuals and communities can do to help mitigate global warming.

Additional components of the exhibition include: a 162-page catalogue, published by the University of Washington Press and a web site.

See http://www.whatcommuseum.org/galleries/upcoming/379-vanishing-ice

Marking “I have a dream”

Xavier Cortada, “The Markers, 1963,” South Pole, 2007.

On Aug. 28, 1963, this point (marked by the flag) on the moving ice sheet that blankets the South Pole stood at 90 degrees South, while the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made his “I Have a Dream” speech , in front of the Lincoln Memorial at 38’53” North, 77’02” West.

See http://www.xaviercortada.com/?Ant_Markers

Here is the text of his speech:

***

I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation.

Five score years ago, a great American, in whose symbolic shadow we stand today, signed the Emancipation Proclamation. This momentous decree came as a great beacon light of hope to millions of Negro slaves who had been seared in the flames of withering injustice. It came as a joyous daybreak to end the long night of their captivity.

But one hundred years later, the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself an exile in his own land. And so we’ve come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the “unalienable Rights” of “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note, insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check, a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.”

But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so, we’ve come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.

We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of Now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism. Now is the time to make real the promises of democracy. Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice. Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood. Now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children.

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro’s legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. Nineteen sixty-three is not an end, but a beginning. And those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual. And there will be neither rest nor tranquility in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights. The whirlwinds of revolt will continue to shake the foundations of our nation until the bright day of justice emerges.

But there is something that I must say to my people, who stand on the warm threshold which leads into the palace of justice: In the process of gaining our rightful place, we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.

The marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Negro community must not lead us to a distrust of all white people, for many of our white brothers, as evidenced by their presence here today, have come to realize that their destiny is tied up with our destiny. And they have come to realize that their freedom is inextricably bound to our freedom.

We cannot walk alone.

And as we walk, we must make the pledge that we shall always march ahead.

We cannot turn back.

There are those who are asking the devotees of civil rights, “When will you be satisfied?” We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of the unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with the fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motels of the highways and the hotels of the cities. We cannot be satisfied as long as the negro’s basic mobility is from a smaller ghetto to a larger one. We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their self-hood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating: “For Whites Only.” We cannot be satisfied as long as a Negro in Mississippi cannot vote and a Negro in New York believes he has nothing for which to vote. No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until “justice rolls down like waters, and righteousness like a mighty stream.”¹

I am not unmindful that some of you have come here out of great trials and tribulations. Some of you have come fresh from narrow jail cells. And some of you have come from areas where your quest — quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality. You have been the veterans of creative suffering. Continue to work with the faith that unearned suffering is redemptive. Go back to Mississippi, go back to Alabama, go back to South Carolina, go back to Georgia, go back to Louisiana, go back to the slums and ghettos of our northern cities, knowing that somehow this situation can and will be changed.

Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of “interposition” and “nullification” — one day right there in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.

I have a dream today!

I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight; “and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

This is our hope, and this is the faith that I go back to the South with.

With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.

And this will be the day — this will be the day when all of God’s children will be able to sing with new meaning:

My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty, of thee I sing.

Land where my fathers died, land of the Pilgrim’s pride,

From every mountainside, let freedom ring!

And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true.

And so let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Hampshire.

Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of New York.

Let freedom ring from the heightening Alleghenies of Pennsylvania.

Let freedom ring from the snow-capped Rockies of Colorado.

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of California.

But not only that:

Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia.

Let freedom ring from Lookout Mountain of Tennessee.

Let freedom ring from every hill and molehill of Mississippi.

From every mountainside, let freedom ring.

And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual:

Free at last! Free at last!

Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!

Alaska Residency: University of Alaska Fairbanks (cancelled)


 

arctic-ak

 

FIU SEAS and CARTA artist-in-residence Xavier Cortada will travel to Alaska to engage in research for his EVER/PERMA project addressing sea-level rise and global climate change concerns.  This is part of his science art practice conducted in partnership with FIU SEAS and FCE LTER faculty (and now with faculty in the  University of Alaska in Fairbanks).

Here’s a blurb about the Ever/Perma research effort:

Ever/Perma is a new body of work being developed by Xavier Cortada.  In it, he uses art to engage community members in addressing environmental degradation, global climate change, and sea level rise concerns. He does so chiefly through the development and implementation of participatory ecological art projects, site-specific artistic interventions in Alaska and Florida, and a programmed exhibit at the project’s conclusion. During the project, Cortada will also convene community meetings, work groups, discussion panels and lectures to activate ideas.
Specifically, “Ever/Perma” will address how global climate change is disrupting the ecosystems at both ends of our country:  sea level rise threatens the Everglades; warmer temperatures are thawing the Arctic permafrost.  Scientists tell us that as both of these ecosystems are degraded by human impacts they release methane (20x more potent than carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere and further disrupt our global climate.

Now more than ever, scientists and artists play a critical role: Scientists must continue to record how the climate responds to changing policies. Artists need to use art to effectuate change; to capture this moment.