Image credits: (left to right) Diane Burko, Elegy for Pasterze Glacier, Austria, 2016, Archival Inkjet Print, 30 x 30 inches, Courtesy of the Artist; Diane Burko, Elegy for Pine Island Glacier, West Antarctica, 2016, Archival Inkjet Print, 30 x 30 inches, Courtesy of the Artist; Diane Burko, Elegy for Mount Kenya, Kenya, 2016, Archival Inkjet Print, 30 x 30 inches, Courtesy of the Artist; Diane Burko, Elegy for Columbia Glacier, Alaska, 2016, Archival Inkjet Print, 30 x 30 inches, Courtesy of the Artist; Diane Burko, Elegy for Quelccaya Ice Cap, Peru, 2016, Archival Inkjet Print, 30 x 30 inches, Courtesy of the Artist.

Diane Burko is a photographer and painter concerned with representing the ever changing majesty, vastness, and epic character of the natural world. She is is deeply concerned about our fragile natural environment and the ways in which we contribute to its destruction.  Burko has had more than thirty solo exhibitions in galleries and museums across the United States, and she is frequently invited to speak about how the arts can help to communicate scientific findings to the public in an engaging way.

Her work, The Elegy Series, is highlighted in the exhibit Rising Tides: Contemporary Art and the Ecology of Water. On display are six prints that are scanned enlargements of smaller studies she completed in her studio with paint and Crackle Paste. The paintings are experiments based on the knowledge that she gained from her many polar expeditions. They are named after a glacier or area in the world whose existence is being dramatically threatened by climate change. Burko has said about the works:

“I chose to use stark and somber contrasting forms of white and black or dark blue to invoke what an elegy is: a poem or lament for the dead. Each painting in this series is a fabrication that I created–and while they are not literal images of glaciers, their abstract, crackling forms reference aerial views of glacial landscapes.”

Burko hopes to move viewers beyond sadness, however, and encourages them also to act.

Looking Questions: 

  • What do you see or notice in each of the works?
  • What kinds of lines do you notice?
  • What do these works remind you of?
  • Where do you see contrast being utilized in this series?
  • How would you describe the texture in each of the works?
  • Describe the colors Burko chose to use in these paintings. How do they make you feel?
  • An elegy is defined as a sad poem or song that typically mourns the loss of a loved one –  what or whom do you think this elegy series is for?
  • What do the works in this series have in common? How are they different?
  • If you could create an “Elegy series” for an place on our earth that is being threatened by climate change, what would it feature?

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