The Vicki Myhren Gallery in the Shwayder Art Building on campus is currently hosting “Storm Warning: Artists on Climate Change,” a powerful – and free – temporary exhibition.
The exhibit was curated by Jeffrey Keith, a Denver artist and DU art and art history professor, who hoped to create a meaningful, conversational exhibit about the impending “storm” of climate change.
As stated on the exhibit’s opening plaque, Keith intended for the exhibit to “look at the strategies artists use to create storm warnings of a different order.” He cites “awareness, ownership and action over time” as guiding principles for selecting the art.
With the exception of possibly Chris Jordan’s “Drowned Laysan Albatross,” which serves as the logo for the exhibit, none of the works of art directly depict horrors or try to convince the viewer to take action. They instead inspire thought and provoke conversations by exploring multiple facets of the issue, often with an unconventional approach in both message and form.
As Keith explains in his statement accompanying Mari Omori’s interactive “Gifting” piece, “We are so used to being talked at about climate change that the simple act of offering [or any of the other unique approaches]…can seem out of place.”
These fascinating perspectives include the humorous and seemingly indirect spirit of the wall-sized piece that greets viewers entering in, “The Job of the Artist is to Always Deepen the Mystery,” as well as the digital print photos of J. Henry Fair, which intentionally draw viewers in with their aesthetic beauty, only to catch them in “a state of shame” when they realize the subjects are ecological disasters.
Elsewhere, Katherine Ball’s “Seed Fireworks” takes a whimsical angle. It’s comprised of small homemade rockets powered by types of seeds that germinate when exposed to fire, which she accompanies with a discussion on the epidemic of human-created wildfires.
Regan Rosburg, on the other hand, invites viewers to truly enter into their grief with her beautiful walk-in tent-like work, “The Relentless Memorial.”
The highlight of the show, though, is Brian House’s multimedia work, “Animas.” In a stunning display of creativity, House hung four panels of sheet metal over microphones that pick up the natural resonance of the metals and send them out through amplifiiers, that’s the eerie white noise you’ll hear when you walk in.
The interesting becomes jaw-dropping, however, when it is revealed that the sheets are the four types of metal that have exceeded EPA tolerances in Colorado’s Animas river, and the sounds they produce are adjusted according to real-time data sent by water quality sensors in the river.
With a non-preachy, but ultimately incredibly moving tone, Storm Warning is perhaps the most nuanced and entertaining artistic criticism of environmental issues you’re likely to see in the near future. It is definitely worth the short walk to the Art Building.
Storm Warning runs until April 30. Admission is free to all. Gallery hours and more information can be found on the Vicki Myhren Gallery website.