San Jose, CA
The precarious relationship between nature and humanity is the subject of this exhibition, drawn from SJMA’s permanent collection. For over two generations since Rachel Carson’s landmark book Silent Spring (1962) triggered the modern environmentalist movement, contemporary artists have been similarly moved by a primal reverence for nature and thus also prompted to raise questions about our rampant impact on the earth’s fragile ecosystems. For example, Anne Appleby uses the spare language of minimalism to record the subtle beauty of nature in Sage (1993), in which each monochromatic panel (built up of translucent layers of color) relates to the annual life cycle of a sage plant—and to Appleby’s observant, poetic take on the perennial succession of life, death, and renewal.
Photographer Edward Burtynsky says, “while trying to accomodate the growing needs of an expanding, and very thirsty civilization, we are reshaping the Earth in colossal ways.” His overriding interest in the environment has led to long-term photographic essays on, for example, oil, mining, quarries, and water. In Oil Fields #19a, Belridge, California (2003–2005) and Oil Fields #19b, Belridge, California (2003–2005), he shows the interface of industry and central California’s landscape, where acres of oil rigs methodically hammer the ground. His pictures are stark and harrowing, yet exquisitely detailed and surprisingly beautiful.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.