Surviving the Anthropocene:
Visual Culture & the Natural World


Exhibition Tour with the Northern Climate Network
Friday, March 17

James Leonard:
The Tent of Casually Observed Phenologies

Climate change Tarot Card Readings
Tuesday, March 28
Wednesday, March 29
Thursday, March 30

We are living in what often feels like unprecedented and tumultuous times. The rate of change in our world seems to be increasing dramatically. We see this in a variety of ways, whether through new technologies or drastic alterations to natural landscapes and inhabitants. At the beginning of the 21st century, chemist Paul Crutzen coined a planetary term for the era of humans: the Anthropocene.

While all organisms will have some influence on their environment and vice versa, humans have impacted the earth in scale and speed in unprecedented ways more than any individual species in history. An overwhelming majority of scientists agree that humans, in large part due to burning fossil fuels, are causing an increase in global temperatures. Vast destruction of habitat and pollution of land and water are impacting species survival. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warns that up to 30 percent of all known species are at risk of extinction by the end of the century.

At the same time, the Anthropocene marks huge leaps in knowledge and technology, also unprecedented in scale and speed. Advances in agriculture and medicine allow for greater ability to meet food demands and for humans to live longer, healthier lives. Many of us now look to innovative ideas for creative and more efficient ways to exist on this planet. Perhaps the greatest advancement of the Anthropocene will be an awakening in humanity to critically rethink the way we exist not just “in nature” but “with nature”.


The museum’s permanent collection contains a variety of artwork that can help us frame these big ideas and lead us to ask big questions: How did we get to this present point? What lessons have we learned along the way? What can we learn from the visual artifacts of the past and present? The exhibition features work from several areas of the permanent collection, including the Local and Regional Art Collection, Bennett and Lewis Collections of Japanese Art, Secord Collection of 20th Century Illustration and Losey Collection of Native American Art. Check back for details on an ongoing event series in conjunction with the exhibition.

Background image: Kaoru Kawano (Japanese, 1916-1965), Owl, circa 1950s, Woodblock Print; Ink on Paper, Gift of Arthur Bennett