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Member Spotlight: Diane Burko

Monday, January 17, 2022 9:00 AM | Callie Smith


January 17, 2022

This week we recognize the work of artist  Diane Burko

Highlighted are a selection of works from her recent solo exhibition titled "Diane Burko: Seeing Climate Change," curated by Mary D. Garrard and Norma Broude, which was on view at the American University Museum from August 28, 2021 - December 12, 2021. The exhibition was included in the New York Times' list of Best Art Exhibitions of 2021.

"What is so amazing about my studio practice now that I’m in my 70s is the new kind of freedom I feel to do whatever - to experiment and play with new materials and tools. New possibilities opened up with my using acrylic paints instead of oils, with the current Reef project. And with the canvas repositioned horizontally - no longer vertically on a wall - has come radical changes in my process. These actions with new material and tools have introduced possibilities I had never imagined.”

"[The World Map Series is a] 56-foot-long suite of paintings. It melds my long-time interest in cartography with my deep concern for our environment being increasingly threatened by climate change. My practice is devoted to this issue. In the early 2000’s, I first investigated the polar region’s melting glaciers. Now I’ve turned my attention to our oceans coral reef ecosystems."

"Being that climate change is a global problem I decided to take on the whole world at once by referencing a world map of glaciers, followed with a map of all the reefs in the world. Each was formatted with a horizontal freeze going across the top, on a 50’ x 88“ canvas. One painting just seemed to lead to another variation until there were six of them. I then decided that each category needed a visual conclusion - a square 50” x 50“ for each suite. However, in June I decided each still needed an exclamation point - so I added another 2 feet to each resulting in a 56 foot long series of paintings."

Also included in "Seeing Climate Change" was a series of lenticular prints, what Burko refers to as "time-based media."

"This first series was created in 2017 in collaboration with Anna Tas, an artist whose métier is 'lenticular.' Together we combined her technical knowledge as well as aesthetic skills, with my on-site experience of bearing witness in the field and in research labs. These circular presentations are referential - providing multiple interpretations spanning a submarine’s 'portal' view under water, a satellite’s aerial perspective to a microscope’s revealing lens. Each piece utilizes the interactive nature of metaphor, inviting the viewer to contemplate and discover. The seductive beauty furthers the conversation about how the natural world is impacted by climate change. Technically, a lenticular print consists of 30 individual frames that are interlaced to become the dynamic image you see before you."

Diane Burko focuses on monumental geological phenomena. Since 2006, her practice has been at the intersection of art, science and the environment, devoted to the urgent issues of climate change. Her work about glacial melt reflects expeditions to the three largest ice fields in the world. Burko is now focusing on the world’s oceans and the dramatic bleaching of coral reef ecosystems. She continually gains knowledge through visiting research labs and engaging with scientists at institutions such as the Norwegian Polar Institute, INSTAAR in Boulder, Colorado, the Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies in Tasmania, the Hawaiian Institute of Marine Biology, Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Erik Cordes Lab at Temple University in Philadelphia. Burko is committed to public engagement. She makes herself available to wide audiences in an effort to convey her experiences and share her knowledge about the ways global warming impacts our planet. dianeburko.com

Featured Images: ©Diane Burko, "Unprecedented" (2021), “Reef Map 1” (2019), "World Map Series" (2019), "From Glaciers to Reefs" (2018), "Summer Heat 2" (2020).

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