I am going to hike to all of Montana's glaciers to draw, bear witness and create a comprehensive record of these extraordinary features before it is too late. As an artist and wilderness advocate, it is a project I am tremendously excited about, and one I find aesthetically rich, meaningful and culturally worthwhile.
I recently asked author and naturalist, Doug Peacock, what a young artist could do to continue the important artist-advocate work of people like himself, Terry Tempest Williams and Gary Snyder. His response was to “go bear witness in your own backyard, because you know it better than anyone else.” This response set me out in search of a subject in my home state of Montana.
According to this list on Wikipedia and the Geographic Names Information System (GNIS), there are 60 named glaciers in Montana. Although many of these perennial snow and ice features have "glacier" in their name, due to the changing climate many of them have already ceased being glaciers - which mostly means they do not move. I am going to draw them all anyway.
This campaign is for the summer 2014 season of glacier drawings. I plan to hike to and draw around 15 to 20 glaciers this summer, depending on what weather, time and the success of this campaign allow.
My plan for this first season is to draw the glaciers in the Mission Mountain Wilderness, The Bob Marshall Wilderness, the Great Bear Wilderness, the one in the Cabinet Mountains, plus a few in Glacier National Park, and if time allows some in the Absaroka-Beartooth Wilderness (see the maps at the bottom for detailed locations) This puts me somewhere between 15 and 20 glaciers and probably more than one pair of boots this summer.
In the field, I will meticulously photograph and sketch each glacier so that I may have a good understanding of each before engaging the final works. These preliminary field studies will prove valuable analogs and documents in their own right, AND MORE IMPORTANTLY WILL BE AVAILABLE TO YOU IF YOU BACK THIS PROJECT.
The final drawings will be on high quality drawing paper 18"x24" or larger. At the Skytop level you will have the choice of your preferred original, hand drawn glacier drawing. This will be on a first come first serve basis so the 1st backer gets first choice, 2nd backer 2nd choice, and so on up to 10. SO BACK SOON AND FAST TO STAKE YOUR CLAIM!
Why draw glaciers in Montana?
Plenty of photographers and landscape painters have seemingly already scoured the aesthetic territory, and with political intentions to draw attention to climate change and human impact. Glaciers, after all, we are told are ground-zero for climate change, and my goals, too, are certainly not above drawing attention to the magnitude and fragility of these majestic features of nature. My primary intention, however, is not to prove climate change is happening (because it is) but to privilege the aesthetic and emotional character of these glaciers while we still can.
Glaciers are an important part of Montana's heritage and landscape, and as their size and numbers continue to decline it is imperative not only for scientists and conservationists to study them, but for artists to “bear witness” to them, both for people now and for future generations. My biggest hope is that the conceptual patience, depth, and sustain of my years-long project can lend a sharper political and emotional edge to a situation science and art has already alerted us to.
I want to see each of these glaciers with my own eyes, feel their cold with my fingers, experience their presence with my body and breathe the chilled mountain air surrounding them.
I do not want to rely upon photographs taken by someone else, nor do I want to solely rely on my own photographs. I want to walk around them and draw them from multiple angles so I can bring their aesthetic fullness onto paper.
It's the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act. So let's do this!
The Wilderness Act is likely the most seminal legislative act to conserve the landscape. In 1964 this act became law protecting vast swaths of land in the United States of America and creating a mechanism for future lands to be protected with Wilderness designation.
Glacier National Park (GNP) often gets most of the attention from artists, media and scientists, however there are many glaciers in Montana's Wilderness Areas such as the Mission Mountain Wilderness, Bob Marshall Wilderness and the Absaroka Beartooth Wilderness. THESE LESSER KNOWN GLACIERS IN MONTANA'S WILDERNESS AREAS ARE REALLY THE HALLMARKS OF THIS PROJECT!
You can find detailed maps of all the glaciers in Montana at the bottom of this page.
Drawing, both for its delicacy and precision, seems to me the perfect medium in which to bear witness to these naturally fragile and precise hallmarks. I also find that dragging graphite upon paper reminds me of the glaciers making their own marks upon the landscape.
Painting could capture the light better, but I find it cumbersome and unpractical, especially when carried many, many miles into the wilderness.
Photography, a powerful medium indeed, is limited to a single view point and can rarely capture more than what is seen in a single moment. Drawing has the potential to convey not only the seen but also to be a record of what is felt and experienced over a period of time across a broad set of vantage points.
Some things about me.
I am a professional visual artist and graphic designer living in Missoula, Montana. Living in Montana, wilderness, to me, is very real. I moved over a decade ago to Missoula to finish my undergraduate studies in fine art and was immediately captured by the landscape, wildness, community, and remoteness.
My first backpacking trip in Montana led me into the Anaconda-Pintlar Wilderness, whereupon ascending East Pintlar Peak I could see a hundred+ miles to the faint peaks of Glacier National Park- since then I have been hooked.
Wilderness may be enchanting and even spiritually moving, but it is not some unseen place beyond a magical boundary where animals live and humans don't. It is very real, very present, and, as it turns out, more than a little bit fragile.
I am certainly not your average landscape artist - just take a look at the rest of my artwork. I like power moves, contradictory relationships, super heroes, myths, big ideas and bigger questions. In Missoula we are surrounded by romantic landscape paintings full of elk, horsies and golden aspen trees, many of which are quite beautiful, but for me there is still something lacking - meaningful content in relation to the state of our world. Help me draw and create a meaningful body of artwork about one of Montana's most important and endangered geological features.
About 6 or 7 years ago I began to develop my current wilderness drawing style with hints of illustration, outlines, minimal color palette and tedious mark making. I am not trying to be overly realistic or overly abstract. I am interested in a kind of intuitional middle ground, between abstraction, illustration, drawing, and expressionism.
I am also quite lucky to have, as a hiking buddy and all around fun-party, a great Australian Shepard named Mylah. To my own chagrin and testament to her awesomeness I have had more than one person say something like "I think I like your dog better." I know, CRAZY right! So if not for me at least back this project to get her romping around outside this summer!
If we can make this happen there are several things I want to do in the future with the work from this project! If we can stretch our goal then these things will happen better and faster.
- An epic exhibition with all the completed drawings, installations and more. I am proposing this project to a local museum, and hope to take the work beyond Montana.
- A lot of small exhibitions along the way.
- I want to publish a book - think coffee table.
- I want to work with my friend Caitlin Hofmeister (who made the video above) to make a documentary short about the project.
- Incorporate the drawings and photos from the project into paintings, installations, performances and all around art shenanigans.
- In July I am going to have a preview showing at Le Petit Outre, so come to that.
- And somewhere at sometime I'd like to get Caroline Keys, Nate Biehl & Jeff Turman whom provided the music for the video out to one of the glaciers so we can record its sounds, and create a glacial soundtrack to accompany the artwork.
- Essentially the future = awesome, but it will only be so with your help!
Contact me with your questions!
Maps of Montana Glaciers
Here are detailed maps of all the areas in which one could find a glacier in Montana. I scoured all the maps and compared them to the aforementioned list to locate each glacier in Montana. I also mapped them all on Google Earth, click here to download it, and be sure to do a fly through!
Sponsors and supporters
Risks and challenges
1. Will you be able to complete this project? I am well on my way to executing this project. I have the plan, the motivation, the ability and technical skills to reach each glacier on foot, now I just need your help to complete it.
2. What if you are eaten by a bear? Well I have always thought that might just be the coolest way to go. Seriously though, it is extremely rare, especially if you know what to do in bear country. I will likely become more famous then Andy Warhol before I become lunch for a bear.
3. Weather, snow pack and access to these glacier sites could delay shipment of the field created rewards. In general the mountains in Montana clear up by late June, and are usually quite accessible in July and August. Regardless of access I will push my way to these glaciers and accomplish this project.
4. Will you be able to draw all 60 glaciers? Well certainly not all of them in one summer season, so I have a plan to hike to 10-15 per season. I expect for this project to reach full completion in 4-5 years. This funding campaign is strictly to begin and complete the first season of drawingsLearn about accountability on Kickstarter
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