Diane Burko has always focused her art on monumental geological phenomena, fostering her artistic practice towards the intersection of Art and Science. She has traveled to rainforests, glaciers, and active volcanoes below the equator in her quest to evoke social and environmental reform. In her recently published book, Glacial Shifts, Changing Perspectives – Bearing Witness to Climate Change, her documentation of the disappearance of glaciers seen through a series of her paintings and photographs calls to action the urgency of climate change awareness–a showing sign how artists can imaginatively communicate, with luminosity, what scientists have been trying to show the public for years.
Shown in the symbiotic relationship she holds with glaciologists during her expeditions to the polar regions, forty of her pieces are reproduced in this book. According to Diane, “It was no longer just about painting beautiful landscapes,” she says in an interview with Benjamin Orlove, Director of the Graduate Program in Climate and Society at Columbia University, “but it was about figuring out a way to talk through my language of paint about this most urgent issue for our time, and for the future.” Her most recent project, The Elegy Series, is featured on the book’s cover. The enlarged details from her paintings resembling aerial views of glacial landscapes in which both the surfaces of the painting and planet are synonymous.
Albeit imaginative as any artists’ vision, Burko is still completely frank with her message. Her images are presented as facts as they are translations of captured data both harvested by her and glaciologists. And although they are referential, they poetically reflect her deep concern for the planet’s ominous future if its inhabitants are left unaware. The crackling of paint on the canvas represents the eruptive cracking of ice, the dissipation of solid land, provoking visual tension and thus evoking the chance to change. With the goal set to wake us all from our cognitive dissonance, Burko’s book should heighten our awareness of the world’s deepening plight of global warming.