By SAMANTHA PARKER, April 2020
When artist Patricia Carr Morgan spent time during an Antarctic summer traversing melting icebergs and glaciers in a Zodiac boat, she came face-to-face with the fragile balance of our ecosystem that signifies climate change. The fissures in the icebergs, the contrast of stark whites and stunning blues, the strength and the fragility of these glaciers inspired her latest body of work. Her series i love you don’t leave me and its conceptual art installations address these issues and the sublime glory of these disappearing landscapes.
The warmth that melts the icebergs and disrupts the balance of the ecosystem is elegantly translated through Blue Tears, the installation aspect of Morgan’s series that originally exhibited at the Tucson Museum of Art. With an increasing sense of loss, Morgan spent several years experimenting with her photographs from Antarctica and Greenland as she searched for a way to express the beauty, degradation, and disappearance of the ice. She is admittedly no scientist, but through her art she is able to contextualize the enormous toll of climate change.
When I went to Antarctica, I didn't go with the idea that I was going to do a project about the ice. Even though I have been concerned about climate change for some time, I didn't have any idea how much impact that visit would have on me. When I saw the glaciers and that unending whiteness and the danger it was in, it had such an impact on me that I could not get it out of my mind. I took hundreds of photographs and then I went to Greenland specifically to photograph more ice. When I came home and started printing them, I really got to know them. I was making a friend, falling in love, learning more.
Morgan printed these landscape photographs in the historical tradition of black-and-white. She printed color images showcasing the beauty of subtle color variations. She rephotographed these with expired damaged film to echo the passage of time. She took coal particles—one of the most recognizable culprits of climate change—and with deliberate strokes, painted them over the beautiful photos to brutally show how it degrades nature. As a conceptual artist her materials speak as distinctly as the intimacy of her photos. In Blue Tears, photos are printed on panels of silk organza, the layers bringing to life the majesty of the ice. The silken blue glaciers are lit to simulate refraction. You feel their weight, beauty, and importance as they tower above you and waver. The installation turns into a performance when Morgan drops each panel one by one to the ground ending in a silken blue pool that signifies the sense of loss we are experiencing as the planet warms and icebergs melt into the ocean.
I thought of silk because of its fragility, its apparent fragility, but yet it's a very strong fabric. I think of the glaciers as a fragile force. They cut through rock, they make rivers, they cause destruction. They provide life, they protect our climate, yet they're very fragile, they're endangered and so is the silk. I felt that it would show the delicacy and the beauty of it. And so I began doing proofs using silk, and I spent a year working on the proofs, hanging sections of the panels up in my studio to see how different lighting impacted their translucency working out a way the installation could begin to disappear over time, again, referencing the loss...
Morgan’s work expresses universal concerns that have great personal meaning to her.
Focusing on themes like nurturing, isolation, and loss, she has built installations with materials that reflect our culture and add a level of heightened specificity that elevates the concept. Often with her work the idea comes before the process of building it. Though the concept dictates the form, the audience adds an unexpected element. The beauty of her installations are found in their composition and the interaction with the viewer. Blue Tears, for instance, draws on the emotion of the audience as she presents climate change with a sense of irreparable loss, a kind of funerary piece that involves each one of us.
I think this is the most important topic I have ever created art about. It's something that I feel so passionately about, it's important to me that people see it. Now that it's been exhibited, and people understand what I'm saying, it's become very important to me for it to travel so that it can speak to more people. I think this installation talks about our loss in a way that many people aren't talking about. They don't realize the sorrow involved, they think of not being able to use coal. I think all of those things… they're very important. The artists that are photographing the raped earth, it’s all very important that people see this destruction and understand what's happening. This installation, though, shows a different side of it. It shows how we should be mourning this and try to stop it. It's like having a death on earth. A beautiful, poignant death. Yeah, we can. We can stop now.
Blue Tears ran from January 26 - April 21, 2019, at the Tucson Museum of Art. The experience for the audience was overwhelming as she brought the visual of what is at stake back home to the desert in Tucson, where she also resides. People came back to see the installation repeatedly and were brought to tears by the impact of the fallen silk glaciers. The exhibit will eventually travel with the Tucson Museum of Art so it can be seen throughout the United States.
Morgan is a longtime resident of the desert community in Tucson where she notices the water tables have dropped and the rivers running dry, a kind of strange mirror to watch she saw in those glacial landscapes years before. She is hopeful i love you don't leave me makes a real time case for the catastrophic effects of global warming and brings to life our interconnectedness and what we stand to lose.
For more, visit Patricia Carr Morgan’s website: https://www.patriciacarrmorgan.com WM
Samantha Parker is a freelance writer living in Pasadena, CA.view all articles from this author