The effects of plastics on wildlife, deforestation and large-scale damming are some of the issues addressed in the exhibition “Climate of Uncertainty,” which goes on display at the DePaul Art Museum Jan. 10.
The exhibition showcases the work of a dozen artists from around the country who traveled the globe exploring the effects people have on the environment, said Laura Fatemi, the assistant director of the DePaul Art Museum.
The interactive exhibit includes photography, sculpture and mixed media.
The goal of the exhibition is to bring awareness to the issue of environmental degradation, she said.
“Issues like climate change, industrial waste, and consumption are very serious issues to us,” she said. “By knowing about these issues, there is a forum for ideas to be discussed, and to germinate and hopefully change will happen.”
Fatemi said the 15,000 square foot museum strives to bring exhibitions that support the educational mission of the university. Exhibits can be thematic or historical, or focus on an issue of global concern. One 2009 exhibition focused on contemporary Iranian artwork, Fatemi said.
“Climate of Uncertainty,” which runs through March 24, also includes several interdisciplinary programs, including a sustainable business conference, and panels discussing climate change and environmental policies.
The museum drew on the expertise of campus leaders to put the programs together, Fatemi said.
“They have been advisors on the project, and it’s been a great way to really pull in these professionals and have them interpret these materials, as well,” she said.
Artists in the exhibit focus on a wide range of issues, and the results aren’t always easy to look at. Artist Chris Jordan focused on the affects of plastic waste on young albatrosses when the birds mistakenly ingest the waste, Fatemi said.
“The work can be powerful, disturbing and dramatic,” she said. “(Jordan) enters an area of the world to which you might never venture. But after seeing his work, you can’t help but think about your own plastic use differently.”
Chicago-based artist Daniel Shea is exhibiting work from his series called “Coal Work,” which is a photographic survey from the coal industry in Appalachia.
The project tracks the industry from extraction to burning, Shea said.
“The work itself is meant to reflect the communities where it was made - instead of looming, ominous portrayals of smoke stacks, they are quietly embedded into the backgrounds and landscapes,” he said. “I want people to interested in the work first artistically and then perhaps become engaged with the social or political issues, or in the context of the exhibit, the environmental consequences of our energy consumption.”
Allison Grant, another Chicago-based artist, used repurposed refuse materials to replicate wilderness images. Three of her works from her “Unsoiled” project are included in the exhibition.
Grant said she sees her work as a metaphor for a broader experience of the natural world.
Grant said she thinks art can provide insight into complex problems like climate change.
“At a time when humanity is facing a major climate crisis, I hope my photographs can remind people of the potentially harmful influence of fantasy on our ideas about what nature is, how our actions shape ecology, and how we should approach crisis,” she said.
Fatemi said artists can be a barometer for what is happening in the world, and expose people to things they might not otherwise think about.
“This issue of how humans are impacting the environment is a concern for all of us,” she said. “We live on the planet and are affecting the planet. Scientists have long been talking about this issue and I think artists are bringing issues to light we should all be caring about.”