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McMichael exhibit Vanishing Ice tackles hot topic of climate change
Jan. 15, 2015
By Adam Martin-Robbins

The McMichael Canadian Art Collection is presenting an exhibition at the end of January that may melt your heart. And, who knows, it might even inspire you to take action aimed at protecting the environment.

Dubbed Vanishing Ice: Alpine and Polar Landscapes in Art, 1775-2012, the show features more than 70 works by 50 artists from 12 countries and includes drawings, prints, paintings, photographs, videos and installations.

The exhibition showcases the Earth’s hauntingly beautiful, but fragile polar landscapes through the eyes of artists, writers and naturalists over a period spanning more than 200 years.

Ultimately, it forces you to confront the impact of climate change on the planet’s frozen frontiers.

“The McMichael nurtures a special interest in exploring the intersection of art and nature, and encouraging meaningful dialogue about the environment,” Victoria Dickenson, executive director and CEO of the McMichael gallery, said in a news release. “Vanishing Ice is both a beautiful glimpse of some of the most remote and fragile ecosystems, and a call to action on what many people hold to be the defining issue of this generation.”

The exhibition boasts works by both contemporary and historical artists including Ansel Adams, James Balog, Thomas Hart Benton, Gustave Doré, Lawren Harris, Isaac Julien, Rockwell Kent, Paul D. Miller also known as DJ Spooky, Alexis Rockman, Camille Seaman and Spencer Tunick.

The idea for Vanishing Ice grew out of curator Barbara Matilsky’s doctoral dissertation, written 30 years ago, about landscape pieces created by French artist-naturalist-explorers who were among the first to depict the poles and mountain glaciers.

As Matilsky became aware of the increasing number of contemporary artists venturing to the Arctic and Antarctic, she saw an opportunity to compare historical and contemporary depictions of these rapidly changing landscapes.

“I am hoping that Vanishing Ice will stimulate a new appreciation for alpine and polar landscapes by revealing their significance for both nature and culture,” Matilsky said in a news release.

“In the past, artists and naturalists expanded the public’s awareness of Earth’s icy frontiers. Today, artists continue to collaborate with scientists, motivated by the belief that art will help people to visualize the accelerating effects of climate change. They awaken the world to both the beauty and increasing vulnerability of ice, which is critical for biological and cultural diversity. Their work will hopefully inspire activism on the regional and national levels to make the requisite policy changes that will bring Earth back into balance.”

The travelling exhibition had its debut in 2013 at the Whatcom Museum in Bellingham, Washington. From there it headed to the El Paso Museum in Texas, then on to Calgary’s Glenbow Museum.

Kleinburg is the final stop on the exhibition’s tour.

The exhibition will span the McMichael’s upper level and will be complemented by an exhibition of works based on the gallery’s permanent collection of pieces related to the Arctic.

That installation, opening Feb. 14, will include paintings and drawings by members of the Group of Seven including Lawren Harris, famed for his depiction of icebergs and glaciers, and works by Inuit artists such as Tim Pitsiulak.

The McMichael also plans to offer additional programming in conjunction with these two exhibitions.

One such event is the Vanishing Ice Family Festival that will include a snowshoe hike on the McMichael’s Humber River Valley site and an opportunity to see Melting Ice, a special installation on the gallery’s grounds by Nepalese-American artist Jyoti Duwadi, who will be in attendance.

The festival takes place Sunday, Feb. 8, and again Sunday, Feb. 15 and Monday, Feb. 16.

The McMichael gallery is also hosting a public talk on Sunday, March 15 at 1:30 p.m. by award-winning wildlife photographer Daisy Gilardini and internationally collected watercolourist David McEown.

The pair has joined a combined 37 expeditions to the Arctic and 38 to Antarctica over the past decade.

Vanishing Ice opens Saturday, Jan. 31 and will be on display until April 26.

The McMichael gallery is at 10365 Islington Ave. in Kleinburg.