Melting ice, rising seas
As they melt, glaciers don’t simply disappear, they become water. Increasingly, they’re adding to rising sea levels.
Melt from all the glaciers and ice sheets in the world are responsible for two-thirds of global sea level rise (the rest is attributed to warming seas), according to Andrew Fountain a glaciologist at Portland State University in Portland, Ore., who agreed to write a scientific note about the next project by Anderson and his colleagues.
Twenty years ago, Fountain says, alpine glaciers, like the ones in GNP, were the first to melt. “Now, Greenland is beginning to melt,” he says.
By 2040, with a 2-degree Celsius increase in global temperature, sea levels will rise significantly along 90 percent of the world’s coastlines, affecting hundreds of millions of people, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Fountain has introduced many artists to the wilderness in Antarctica, where he conducts some of his research. When Anderson asked him, out of the blue, to contribute to an artistic project, Fountain considered it a way to tell more people about the melting glaciers.
“Getting this information out to people is super important,” says Fountain. “It’s a gateway to science. I might be attracted to the subject by graphs and plots, but others might be attracted by art.”
It’s a symbiotic relationship, Anderson says, as scientists wrap the art in a scientific context.
“Working with scientists is very critical to my projects. We’re trying to bridge gaps and we’re trying to connect with as many folks as we can,” Anderson says. “What the scientists provide is things that we can’t provide – analytical analysis, and whole, unique perspectives of what’s going on with the landscape.”
“Working with scientists is very critical to my projects. We’re trying to bridge gaps and we’re trying to connect with as many folks as we can.”
There is also common ground among artists and scientists, and aficionados of each. Science, Fountain says, can be incredibly creative, like when it’s time to choose the right approach to finding a solution. And when looking at Anderson’s art, the glaciologist sees clues to the glacier’s life, such as whether it’s advancing or retreating.
Anderson's woodcut print of Grinnell Glacier
After graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Anderson found work at Tandem Press, an international printing house affiliated with UW’s School of Education. Tandem has a tradition of attracting famous artists to experiment and print in its studio. David Lynch, Chuck Close, Art Spiegelman and Judy Pfaff are among its alumni.
Essentially, Anderson worked with artists accustomed to producing singular pieces of art, and helped them create prints that “would be totally and wholly unique, but you could make 20 or 30 of these things, and more people could have it.”
Printmaking, he says, “is an inherently democratic medium, and for me that was really what grabbed me.” The Last Glacier project is similarly intended to be shared with the masses, Anderson says. “Our mission is to get the work into the public sphere,” he says.
And he wants future masses to experience the work, which makes acquisitions by the Met, the New York Public Library and the Library of Congress special.
“One of the things I want to do as an artist is to talk about the immediacy of things going on in the world. But art, as I understand it and the way I approach it, it’s a multi-generational conversation,” Anderson says.
In museums, “when we look at a painting from the 1800s it helps us understand what people’s values were, what people thought about.
“It’s just as important when future generations who go to museums and get to see this work. It’s not just saying, oh, there used to be a glacier here, but it’s also saying, this is a little bit about us. In a very, very small way. Of what we valued as a society and what we thought about, the challenges we were trying to face and engage.”
Working with collaborators also amplifies the message and grows the audience. Anderson initially planned to work alone, but the glaciers were so vast and distant – 10 to 15 miles from an access road – that he enlisted Crownover and von Coller to help cover the territory.
The result, Anderson says, is “three very unique artistic visions of essentially the same thing. The hope is that by presenting the viewer with three different versions of three different artists, that folks might be able to latch on. If they don’t like my work, maybe they’ll really like Bruce’s. Or if they don’t like Bruce’s, maybe they’ll like Ian’s.”