Final Project: An Exploration of How We View Nature

For my final project I created an environmental artwork, and also made a video which documents the piece and provides an explanation of the work and its meaning. During my presentation I will show the video, and hopefully talk about or answer any questions about the piece. Even though the audio in the video is a recording of me reading my artist statement, I have also posted it here for anyone who would like to read it: Continue reading


Exploring the Untouched Landscape

While getting lost in the world of internet, I discovered the photographic work of the German photographer, Bernhard Edmaier:                                         Edmaier is an aerial photographer, and photographs landscapes “which have emerged in the course of natural geological processes, without any human influence or manipulation.”  As Edmaier’s work depicts such scenes, his images appear to be abstract and even surreal.  For example, the photograph of Brennisteinsalda, Iceland, which is part of his series on volcanoes, depicts a landscape that was part of “a volcanic massif that was buried beneath a huge glacial sheet during the ice age […] the rock has been penetrated by hot sulfurous vapors.  After the ice disappeared, rivers carved into the rock.  Around AD 1480, a great hot lava flow […] poured out of the mountain’s eastern flank and solidified.”

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Topic for Tonight’s Class: Technology and the National Parks

While thinking about and searching for a topic for tonight’s class, I came across this website:

The George Wright Society “is dedicated to the protection, preservation, and management of cultural and natural parks and reserves through research and education.”  As the George Wright Society aims to increase understanding of protected areas, such as the national parks, they offer many articles about, and insights into issues that we have discussed in class.  The writing by John Shultis, Consuming Nature: The Uneasy Relationship Between Technology, Outdoor Recreation, and Protected Areas, highlights and summarizes many of the issues that we have discussed in class regarding the effects of how we view the national parks as a consumer culture.

Maybe we will get a chance to explore some of these issues further after reading John Shultis’s piece, which you can read here:

Forgetting Eden: How to Accept Our Place in Nature

David Oates’s, Paradise Wild, offers insights on how we do and could think about nature.  Contrary to how I usually feel after reading pieces that have to do with environmental issues, after reading these sections of Paradise Wild I felt surprisingly invigorated.  Of course what we need is a fresh outlook on the natural world altogether; if we enter into nature with feelings of guilt, unworthiness, and/or a sense of otherness as we seem to currently do, we may never feel up to the challenge of properly protecting these environments.  The nature myths that we seem to have established contribute to feelings of separateness and a sense that merely by existing as human beings we are a destructive force endangering the natural world.  But why should we not see ourselves as part of this world? Wouldn’t it make sense that the more we view ourselves as separate and destructive in relation to nature, the more difficult it will be to learn to live as members of it and within it?  David Oates makes some very compelling points as he calls for a new myth and a breaking down of boundaries that seems to contradict how we usually want to approach the natural environment.                                                                                                                          After reading the introduction in Paradise Wild, I began to think of how we could really begin to alter our views and feel like members of nature as opposed to potential enemies of it.  These thoughts kept coming to me after reading this particular passage:

I think the idea of wilderness might serve. […] Not an Eden to be fenced, lost, saved; but an Eden to be rediscovered everywhere, inside the designated wilderness, and out. […] I hope that by reforming the language and though of environmentalism, we can do a better job of treasuring our forests, wildlands, and peoplelands, right down to the last square centimeter of backyard garden, the remotest juniper snag on an unnoticed cliff, the least cell in the body.

This passage emphasizes the notion that by discovering and appreciating the natural world everywhere and bringing it into our daily lives, we are better able to treasure and protect the natural environment.  After reading this, I continued to think about how we could accomplish this task of altering our views and living as members of nature on a regular basis, and I could not stop considering the concept of sustainable architecture.  Although there are many ways in which we may begin to live as members of nature, as Oates seems to be suggesting, I am continually drawn to the idea of literally living within the midst of the natural world through altering how we construct our homes and communities.; Continue reading

Preservation Through Reproduction: The Various Possibilities of Reproducing Nature

As this week’s readings and videos focus on the concept of reproduction, particularly in the context of art, I find myself constantly thinking of art’s influence in reproducing nature.  For example, with paintings and photographs of natural landscapes, although the viewer realizes that what is in front of them is a reproduction of a place, this reproduction has the ability to alter how a person may think about the actual landscape being represented.  In that way, as shaner0892 mentions in the post, Art vs. Propaganda, we may recognize the power of artistic imagery to influence our thoughts and perspectives.

When contemplating the ability of art to influence our thoughts about and experiences with a subject, particularly with the natural world, the first artist that comes to mind is Ansel Adams.  Being one of the most widely know conservation photographers, or one of the most widely know photographers in general, Ansel Adams has played a major role in the development of how we see the natural world, specifically the national parks.  His black and white photographs depict vast landscapes that feel perfectly framed and provoke a sense of awe and reverence at the subject matter.  For example, in his photograph, “Clearing Winter Storm,” which was taken in Yosemite National Park, he frames the landscape in a way that makes it seem endless and powerful.  He accentuates the contrast between the snow and rock, and his framing of the landscape leads the viewer into the winding valley.  As a result, the powerful presence of his images that present seemingly flawless landscapes have led to the idealization and preservation of these natural worlds.

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Preservation, Conservation, or Consumption

The reading, “Constructing Nature: The Legacy of Frederick Law Olmsted,” inspires a variety of questions related to how we experience and view the natural world.  As Olmsted actually constructs areas that eventually come to be seen and accepted as natural environments that have always existed, he causes us to question the role that people play or the authority that we have in relation to the natural world.  Although—as I mention in my Topic Prospectus—it is dangerous to develop widely accepted constructed ideas of what wilderness should be, and although Olmsted does have a specific way of creating his environments which led to people accepting his landscapes as real, natural, and as what nature is supposed to be, he promotes the idea that we can live in and as a part of nature.  His landscapes contribute to the notion that the natural world does not have to be something separate and remote, removed from our everyday lives, but that we may live in conjunction with it, that we may have a regular correspondence with nature.  For example, his Boston’s Fens and Riverway projects were “built on the site of tidal flats and floodplains, fouled by sewage and industrial effluent, were designed to purify water and protect adjacent land from flooding.  They also incorporated an interceptor sewer, a parkway, and Boston’s first streetcar line; together, they formed a landscape system designed to accommodate the movement of people, the flow of water, and the removal of wastes.”  Although this landscape was constructed, the system allowed people to realize the many benefits of living within natural landscapes as opposed to being isolated from them. Continue reading

Construction and Consumption: An Exploration of How We View Nature

This is very late, and I am sorry.

As we have discussed the role of the natural world in our society throughout this class, there are a few key terms that continually come to mind, specifically: separate, construct, and consume.  The common use of each of these words in regard to the natural environment says a lot about how we approach nature as a society.  First of all, the terms construct and consume not only imply a human presence, but also a type of human control.  As these terms are used in the context of a human-to-nature relationship, they suggest the presence of an alarmingly unnatural approach to thinking about the environment.  For example, to construct something may be thought of as developing, altering, or inventing an object or idea.  Therefore, if we consider our relationship with nature in terms of constructing it, then we are no longer accepting nature for what it is; we are no longer seeing it as a living aspect of the world, but we are rather viewing it as an object that can be manipulated and controlled.  Furthermore, when we think of constructing nature, we may not necessarily be thinking of how we physically manipulate the natural world, but how we control it simply through the ideas of nature that we have constructed.  For example, although the creation of national parks is an amazing development and promotes the preservation of wilderness for the benefit of all to have access to and appreciate it, they have instilled a type of concept of what nature is or should be into American society. Continue reading