with climate crisis
Paul Nicklen Photographs the Colorado River as It Etches Itself Like Veiny Branches into the Landscape
It is a common understanding in writing studies that to recount a disastrous event in literal and graphic detail may damper the purpose of the story by pushing the reader away. In order to elicit experiential feelings, writers often learn to employ tools and strategies such as metaphor, poeticism, and structure. This could also be understood as an exercise in empathy because rather than force the reader to feel by summarizing the experience for them, the writer creates an environment where one can reach for closeness and camaraderie in their own ways.
Paul Nicklen, pioneering conservation photographer (previously), calls nature “the first and greatest artist” in his latest collection, the Delta Series. To expand Nicklen’s statement across disciplines, nature may also be the first and greatest writer. In the series, he captures the vestiges of the Colorado River that trickle, roar, and finally, crawl their way down to Baja, Mexico. Though the silt itself is the site of tragedy, traces of freshwater gorgeously spread like branches, or fingerprints, or lungs, or as Nicklen writes, like veins.
These lines not only tell the story of the “megadrought,” a term scientists use to describe the impact of the climate crisis since the year 2000 on an already dry West—as of June, both the U.S. and Mexican governments have agreed to release water from irrigation canals and restore the ecosystem in Baja—but they also craft the effects of reduced snowpack, thirstier soil, and higher temperatures into a grand metaphor for the interconnectedness of life. Even in the midst of ruin, nature speaks in symbols. With its last breath, the river reaches for its kin: the ocean. Unable to meet that immense body, the water carves its final words into the landscape. The familiar shape of its sprawl reminds us that we are inseparable, intimately woven into each other, and share responsibility for every living thing around us until the very end.
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A forthcoming monograph published by Phaidon packs the inimitable career of artist Olafur Eliasson (previously) into nearly 500 pages. Spanning from the 1990s to today, the expanded edition comprises a breadth of works, including “The Weather Project,” the widely acclaimed installation that took over Tate Modern in 2003, and the more recent “Life,” which flooded Fondation Beyeler in Basel last year with murky green waters. This new volume contains hundreds of photos and illustrations paired with writing by Michelle Kuo, Anna Engberg-Pedersen, and the artist himself and reflects on both the monumental public installations and smaller works that define his practice. Olafur Eliasson, Experience is currently available for pre-order on Bookshop.
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The Aquatic and Terrestrial Life of Southern California Merges into Hybrid Creatures in Jon Ching’s Paintings
Los Angeles-based artist Jon Ching imagines the fantastic possibilities of melding Earth’s flora and fauna, rendering bizarre creatures with mushroom feathers and striped tulip fins. His latest oil paintings, which are on view this fall in Habitat at Beinart Gallery, extend this interest in hybridity by blending aquatic, aerial, and terrestrial organisms and their environments.
Marine ecosystems appear in many of the pieces, alongside cacti and succulents native to Ching’s home in southern California. In “King Tide,” for example, rising water approaches a cockatoo with plant-like plumage, and “Acclimate” depicts two green parrots perched on aloe growing below the surface. Each work envisions how different ecologies could converge and references nature’s resilience, the climate crisis, and the growing necessity of adapting to a changing world.
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In ‘Extinct and Endangered,’ Photographer Levon Biss Magnifies the Potential Loss of Insects Around the Globe
Despite existing on separate continents thousands of miles apart, the Madeira brimstone and giant Patagonian bumblebee are experiencing similar hardships. The former, which inhabits the islands it inherits its name from, is dealing with an invasive species decimating the trees its caterpillars require pre-metamorphosis, while the latter has been struggling to survive in its native Chile after farmers introduced domesticated European bees to aid in crop pollination. Both species are in danger and are part of an ongoing exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History conveying what’s at stake if their species are lost entirely.
Extinct and Endangered is comprised of massive, macro shots by Levon Biss, a British photographer who’s amassed a stunningly diverse collection of images with a variety of natural subject matter from dried seeds to iridescent insects. Biss often collaborates with institutions like the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Oxford Museum of Natural History, gaining access to their archives and selecting specimens. He then takes about 10,000 individual images using various lenses that are then stitched together to create extraordinarily detailed shots of beetles, moths, and butterflies.
From the American Museum of Natural History’s collection of more than 20 million, Biss chose just 40 creatures, some of which have already vanished. “To know an insect will never exist on this planet again, primarily because of human influence, is upsetting and emotional. And it’s humbling,” he told The New York Times. “As an artist, it’s the thing that drives me on to make that picture as good as it can be.”
Spanning up to eight feet, the photos are immense in scale and focused on each specimen’s striking forms, whether the undulating wings of the 17-year cicada or the intimidating tusk-like appendages of the lesser wasp moth. Biss hopes that Extinct and Endangered, which is on view through September 4, will raise awareness about the rapid decline in insect populations around the world. “I want people to be in awe of their beauty but to also be damn sad about why they’re being put in front of them,” he says.
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A bright blue bodega, clustered wooden complexes, and a classic design emblazoned with a Swiss flag occupy the lush landscape of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden this summer. Eclectic in style, concept, and technique, the collection establishes dozens of tiny homes for avians across the 52-acre site as part of For the Birds, a group exhibition exploring the disastrous effects of the climate crisis on the feathered creatures—researchers estimate that North American populations have been reduced by 29 percent, or 3 billion birds, since 1970.
Balancing practical needs with aesthetics, the show tasked 33 artists, designers, and collectives with creating site-specific dwellings for specific species. “Woven” by Sourabh Gupta, for example, features spherical, apartment-style spaces for wildly social sparrows, while Studio Barnes evoked the art deco architecture found throughout southern Florida with “Fly South.” The color palette for that work is derived from the vibrant, red feathers of cardinals.
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Interview: A Conversation with The Tempestry Project Delves Into the Importance of Knitting Tangible Records of Climate Data
Even in the wake of major weather events like the unprecedented flooding that closed Yellowstone National Park for the first time in decades last week, it can be difficult to grasp the magnitude of the climate crisis. The Tempestry Project has been striving to make such large-scale shifts more accessible and relatable through data-rich tapestries, which founders Asy Connelly and Emily McNeil discuss in a new interview supported by Colossal Members.
People don’t have to come at it specifically as “this is activism,” but people can come at it tangentially. Once they see the climate history that’s happening right in their backyards, it dawns on them that this is happening even here…A lot of the IPCC reports focus on what’s going to happen in the future, and people tune that out. I wish they wouldn’t, but it’s what happens. If you connect it to their lived experience in their homes, it’s a lot more impactful for people.
In this conversation with managing editor Grace Ebert, Connelly and McNeil discuss the slow, insightful process of crafting a Tempestry, why it’s important to standardize yarn colors, and the power a single knit has to change someone’s mind.
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Editor's Picks: Design
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