Presented in conjunction with AU Climate Action, a year-long interdisciplinary program focused on climate change across American University.
Painter, photographer, and climate activist Diane Burko has long been a prominent advocate for art’s role in addressing climate change. Continually traveling to some of the most affected areas around the world—the Arctic Circle, Antarctica, the Great Barrier Reef—she has interacted and collaborated with members of the scientific community, while producing a visually compelling oeuvre that powerfully communicates the threats posed by climate change. Having focused on the monumental wonders of the natural world in her earlier landscape paintings, in 2006 Burko redirected her practice to address environmental damage caused by global warming. While continuing to engage the traditions of landscape painting, her increasingly abstract and large-scale images are layered with visual and scientific information about the urgent challenge posed to the planet, manifested in glacial melting, coral reef bleaching, raging forest fires, and the COVID-19 pandemic. This exhibition will present many of Burko’s large-scale paintings and serial groupings, including the 56-foot-long “World Map” series, which addresses glacier and coral reef changes across the globe. Since 2018, Burko has embraced time-based media, with melting and flowing imagery that forcefully underscores her subject of climate degradation over time. The exhibition includes a selection of her “Lenticulars,” fluid animations that reference the motion of water, wind, and ice around the planet; and two videos, one on coral reefs and the other on melting ice, which are simultaneously lyrical and foreboding.
The fully illustrated exhibition catalogue will include essays by the curators, distinguished art historians Mary D. Garrard and Norma Broude, and a short essay by the environmental author and activist Bill McKibben.