Ardis DeFreece Visual Studies MFA Thesis 2017
The Sinister Sublime, An Artistic and Ecological Exploration of the Columbia River
In this essay, art, science and culture come together to examine ecological concerns using the Columbia River as a conduit through history, Naturalist studies, Romantic landscape painting, and contemporary ecological art. The Columbia River region is presented as a microcosm of ecological concerns in the wider world. The current environmental crisis can be seen from various sites along the Columbia as the author tells of personal experiences and research that led to an ecological and artistic awakening. This awakening inspired the author to see Nature as both a place and an idea that can be the catalyst for change in the face of cynicism, denial, and financial greed. Through narrative landscape and in-field exploration, artists, scientists and the greater public can traverse the issues that divide us politically and ethically. The author investigates the idea of a renewed human connection to Nature and that humans are part of it, rather than in control of it. This essay explores the many ways that artists, artist-scientists and thinkers have worked with environmental issues for hundreds of years into the present day and the history and current conditions of the Columbia River reflect this exploration.