Earth Matters at SAM Gallery

In the wake of recent un-natural disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the Japanese nuclear catastrophe and the sinking of a barge in our very own Puget Sound last month, Exhibitions Director Barbara Shaiman has enlisted nine northwest based artists whose work addresses the current state of the environment and the ramifications of human existence on the planet.

"Consume" by Tom Reese

Consume by Tom Reese ( Archival Digital Print, 29 x 39)

The idea for curating a show addressing the topic of environmental concerns came when Shaiman was recently viewing a landscape that, albeit aesthetically beautiful, wasn’t exactly an accurate portrayal of present conditions.

“How odd to see a modern landscape that makes no reference to the current state of environmental conditions” she said. “So then I thought, I wonder how other artists are addressing these issues in their work?”

With this is mind, Shaiman went in search of local artists whose work is heavily influenced by our rapidly changing landscape and subsequent climate change.

With mediums ranging from photography to oil, acrylic and charcoal, each artist’s work is emblematic of their own response to the impact humans have made on the world’s ecology. When these works are collected into the same space, there is an evident dialogue that is hard to miss.

Artists Kelly Neidig and Anna McKee induce nostalgia with their abstractions of Earth’s geography before the arrival of strip malls, housing developments and urban sprawl. Neidig’s depictions of the landscapes she remembers as a child speak to McKee’s glacial time tables that keep record of the changes in natural events. Both Tom Reese and William Rugen’s landscape photography capture altered topographies and their environmental impact. While Reese photographs the ramifications of toxic substances seeping into natural waterway habitats and the wildlife that interact with these harmful substances, Rugen’s work offers ironic juxtapositions of human existence vs. land and terrain.

"Coldsprings" by William Rugen

Cold Springs, NV by William Rugen ( Photo, 31 x 37)

Adam Sorenson’s paintings evoke a post-apocalyptic effect with their barren landscapes and gloomy skies, giving us a glimpse into a grim future devoid of any flora and fauna and David Krull’s intricately painted illustrations of small animals interacting with fine china is reminiscent of the fragility of wildlife, our increasing bombardment their delicate ecosystems.

Feathered Pines by Adam Sorenson

Feathered Pines by Adam Sorenson, (Oil on panel, 25 x 20)

Sally Ketcham and Eddy Radar have uniquely different techniques, but both are addressing a similar message: our climate is out of balance; Radar’s chaotic storm clouds have the same dark temperament as Ketcham’s layered compositions.

Ryan Molenkamp’s work depicts the infamous Denny Regrade, when Seattle bent the land to its will, forcing it to surrender to our desire for a flatter topography. These seem especially poignant with the massive Earth moving project of the light rail tunnels.

"The Denny Regrade 2" by Ryan Molenkamp

The Denny Regrade 2 by Ryan Molenkamp (Oil on Panel, 24 x 24)

Come see all these artists’ works and meet them in person at the opening reception for Earth Matters on Thursday, November 10 from 5 – 7pm at SAM Gallery.  The show runs through December 10 and we’re located one block east of the museum, at 1220 Third Avenue, Seattle, WA.

 – Alyssa Rhodes, SAM Gallery Coordinator