Weather Report: Exploring the Atmosphere Through Art

The weather is a hot topic in the arts these days, moving from the background of landscape imagery to the main subject. This transition is the focus of the exhibition, Weather Report at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, CT.

Curated by Richard Klein, the exhibit features a wide array of artists influenced by the workings of our atmosphere. Some examples that stood out to me include Kim Keever’s “Clouds” that were created with various pigments in a tank of water and Sarah Bouchard’s “Weather Box”, which makes music from weather data. The sculptures of weather map graphics by Bigert and Bergström, a Swedish art duo, also caught my eye as they explore the way weather has influenced historical events. Overall, the exhibition aims to highlight the sky as a place where the aesthetic, the political, and the scientific co-exist and inform each other.

The show is on view through March 29, 2020. For more information, visit: http://aldrichart.org

Bigert and Bergström’s “The Russian Campaign, 1812.” Photo: Melissa Fleming

“Weather the Weather”: An Art Exhibition at the NY Hall of Science

Art and science have come together at the New York Hall of Science to highlight the fascinating world of weather. In a group exhibition titled Weather the Weather, artworks of various mediums explore the different ways we understand and experience the forces of nature.

Curated by Marnie Benney, this SciArt Initiative exhibition features the work of twenty-one artists from around the world. Honored to be one of them, images from my American Glaciers: Going, Going, Gone and Wildfires series are on display.

The exhibition will be on view from September 10, 2019 through January 10, 2020 at The New York Hall of Science, 47-01 111th Street, Queens, NY. For hours, directions, and a list of associated events visit www.nysci.org

Icebergs break off from Portage Glacier, AK. Credit: Melissa Fleming

Weather and Art: Louisa McElwain’s “Desert Rain God”

The weather has long been a muse for artists. For Louisa McElwain (1953-2013), an American painter based in the southwest, summer storms were particularly special.

According to Evoke Contemporary, the gallery that represents her estate, McElwain was drawn to “the way the light changes and the clouds dance across the horizon ahead of the rain.” While visiting the Phoenix Art Museum recently, I came across her 2009 piece, Desert Rain God.

This large-scale oil on canvas painting captures a storm in the New Mexico desert just as a dramatic downpour is starting. These storms, largely associated with Monsoon Season in the southwest, are a vital source of moisture in the arid region.

Working outdoors, using the bed of her pick-up truck as sort of mobile studio, McElwain’s paintings aimed to capture her experience of nature. In a statement, she described her approach to painting as a “dance made to the tempo of the evolving day”.  Working quickly to depict the changing effects of the atmosphere, she often used palette knives and masonry trowels to apply paint to the canvas. These tools allowed her to avoid being overly descriptive and to create an impasto effect. Most of her paintings, regardless of size, were completed in less than four hours.

Louisa McElwain’s “Desert Rain God” on display in the Phoenix Art Museum. Photo Credit: Melissa Fleming

“Warming Stripes”: The Colors of Climate Change

Sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words. That is the case with “Warming Stripes”, a creative visualization of climate data by Ed Hawkins, a scientist at the UK’s National Centre for Atmospheric Science.

Painting a picture of our changing climate, each stripe represents a single year from 1850 through the present. With an aesthetic similar to color field paintings by artists such as Barnett Newman or Mark Rothko, the images use only color to communicate meaning. Simplifying a complex issue for maximum impact with the general public, they avoid distracting details and focus on the big picture.

In “Warming Stripes for the Globe” (see below), it is plain to see the shift from blue (cooler) on the left to red (warmer) on the right. While there were a few warm years here and there in the past, the overall trend clearly shows temperatures are getting warmer. It is also important to note that the red has been getting darker (hotter) in recent years.

To see how the warming trend is playing out on a more regional or local level in different parts of the world, visit www.showyourstripes.info

“Warming Stripes for Globe, 1850-2018”. Credit: Ed Hawkins

Climate Communication: Art Helps Build Political Will for Change

The Conference on Communication and Environment (COCE) is taking place this week in Vancouver, Canada. Organized by the International Environmental Communication Association, the theme of this year’s event is “Waterlines: Confluence and Hope through Environmental Communication.”

Thrilled to be a part of it, I will be giving a presentation titled “The Power of Perception: Art, Climate, and the History of US Environmental Policy”. It looks at the role art has played in helping to build the political will behind several landmark environmental policies over the years and how it can help with climate change communication today.

From the Yosemite Land Grant of 1864 to the present, images have helped give the public, and the policy makers they elected, a new way to relate to and understand the issues of their time. In many cases, images mobilized public concern that helped drive legislation. The publication of photos of the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 in Time Magazine, for example, helped spur the passage of the Clean Water Act and the creation of the EPA in the 1970s.

While environmental issues have changed over the years, so has technology and the way we relate to images. As such, this presentation also poses questions about what form of art will reach the most people and motivate them to speak up on climate change today.

Credit: IECA

Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers

Climate change is a complex scientific subject with a plethora of data-rich reports that detail its causation and diverse impacts. However, as important as all that information is, not everyone responds to facts and figures or charts and graphs. That is why art, which taps into human emotion and tells visual stories, can help create new pathways to understanding this global issue.

Marking World Environment Day on June 5, I will be discussing this idea in a presentation titled “Climate Communication: Using Art to Get Beyond the Numbers” at the UN Committee of New Canaan in New Canaan, CT. Blending the qualitative and quantitative, this talk reviews the results of a recent poll that measured the influence climate-art has on people’s opinions and highlights specific artworks that speak to the assorted impacts of this critical issue and its possible solutions.

As the famous scientist, Lord Kelvin, said, “When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it.” If that is true, then art has an important role to play in helping to broaden the public conversation on climate change.

Credit: Melissa Fleming/The Weather Gamut

Broto Conference 2019: Exploring Climate Science Through Art

Art and science are coming together in Provincetown, MA this weekend at the BrotoEco Conference. Now in its second year, the event focuses on brainstorming ideas and fostering collaborations across these seemingly divergent fields of study.

Named after the Portuguese word for “sprout”, this two-day event will include speakers, panels, and even a comedy show. I am thrilled to be part of the “Globalizing Art and Science” panel, where we will be discussing how art can help to scale up the global conversation on climate change.

For more information on the event, including a full list of speakers, please visit the Broto website.

Image Credit: Broto

“Encounter 2019”: An Art and Science Exhibition on Climate Change

Art and science are coming together in Durham, England to help expand the public conversation on climate change. In a group exhibition titled Encounter 2019 at Ustinov College at Durham University, artworks of various mediums along with scientific research posters explore the diverse impacts of this pressing issue.

Curated by Miyoko Yamashita McGregor, the overall theme of the show investigates the interaction between climate change, nature, and society. It features the work of over 30 contributors, including several scientists who presented aspects of their research as artwork. Two examples from this category are The Heat is Piling Up and A Story of Climate Change. Both are artful and engaging displays of scientific data.

The Heat is Piling Up, by Professor Glenn McGregor, Principal of Ustinov College, and Professor Camila Caiado, is a colorful column of stripes that shows how the average temperature in Durham has been increasing since record keeping began there in 1850. (Image far left)

A Story of Climate Change by Professor Dave Roberts is a digital x-ray image of a sediment core collected from the Hebridean Continental Shelf. It was taken as part of the NERC Britice-Chrono project, which is attempting to reconstruct a picture of the advance and retreat of the British-Irish Ice Sheet during the last glacial cycle. (Image near left).

Honored to be included in the exhibition, several pieces from my Under Glass series and my ongoing project, American Glaciers: Going, Going, Gone are also on display.

Encounter 2019 is the second of three Encounter exhibits planned by the University. It will be on view from March 2 – 14, 2019 at Ustinov College, Sheraton Park, Durham University, Durham DH1 4FL, UK.

Icebergs break off from Portage Glacier, AK. Credit: Melissa Fleming

Weather and Art: “Love of Winter”

Today is Valentine’s Day, a holiday when chocolate treats and images hearts abound. But for me, it is George Bellows’ Love of Winter that always comes to mind as we mark the mid-point of what is usually New York City’s snowiest month of the year.

A longtime personal favorite, this 1914 painting captures the spirit of those who embrace the season. Filled with the blurred movement of skaters on a frozen pond and accented with spots of bright color that pop against the white snow, it conveys the joy of being out in nature on a cold winter day.

While Bellows is better known for depicting scenes of boxing matches and urban life, art historians say he enjoyed the challenge of painting the varied lighting conditions produced by a snow-covered landscape. In fact, he wrote a letter to a friend in January 1914 complaining about the lack of snow in the New York City area that winter. He said, “There has been none of my favorite snow. I must paint the snow at least once a year.” Then, on February 13, a blizzard hit the region. The wintry conditions inspired him to create this timeless painting.

Love of Winter is part of the Friends of American Art Collection at the Art Institute of Chicago.

“Love of Winter”, 1914 by George Bellows. Collection of the Art Institute of Chicago

Speaking About Art, Climate, and Environmental Policy at AMS

The 99th Annual Meeting of the American Meteorological Society is taking place this week in Phoenix, Arizona. Its theme is “Understanding and Building Resilience to Extreme Events by Being Interdisciplinary, International, and Inclusive.”

Thrilled to be a part of it, I will be giving a presentation titled “The Power of Perception: Art, Climate, and the History of US Environmental Policy”. The talk looks at the role art has played in helping to build the political will behind several landmark environmental policies over the years and how it can help with climate change communication today.

From the Yosemite Land Grant of 1864 to the present, images have helped give the public, and the policy makers they elected, a new way to relate to and understand the issues of their time. In many cases, images mobilized public concern that helped drive legislation. The publication of photos of the Cuyahoga River fire of 1969 in Time Magazine, for example, helped spur the passage of the Clean Water Act and the creation of the EPA in the 1970s.

The talk also highlights the way technology has changed the way we relate to images and the role movies – the art of moving images – can play in reaching a wide and diverse audience.

Credit: AMS