New York Academy of Sciences
If Rachel Carson were alive today, she would probably be pleased about the heightened public awareness of the environment and some of the protective legislation passed since she wrote Silent Spring. She would likely be much less satisfied with the ongoing battle between those who wish to preserve our natural environment and those whose efforts continue to contribute to its deterioration and destruction.
And just as Carson brought an investigative scientific eye to the problems of pesticides that she described in her groundbreaking book, an exhibition opening November 4 at the New York Academy of Sciences likewise casts a probing artistic look at some of the most critical environmental issues facing the world today. The exhibition, “The Obligation to Endure: Art & Ecology Since Silent Spring,” reflects one of Carson’s favorite maxims by the French biologist Jean Rostand: “The obligation to endure gives us the right to know.”
It features works in a variety of media that raise questions about such current concerns as global warming, toxic waste, POPs (persistent organic pollutants), the extinction of species, and genetic modification. Artists included in the exhibition are Joy Episalla, Joy Garnett, Tom Hawkins, Dominic McGill, Jason Middlebrook, Frank Moore, Catherine Murphy, Bruce Nauman, Gary Ponzo, Amy Jean Porter, Alexis Rockman, David Wojnarowicz and Carrie Yamaoka.
“Despite the seminal influence of Silent Spring, the battle that Rachel Carson fought on behalf of all living things is a long way from being won,” said Nick Debs, curator of the exhibit. “We are increasingly polluting our water and air and are causing irreparable harm to the biosphere.”
Debs, former director of the activist group Visual AIDS and principal of the New York gallery Debs and Co., noted that the artists chosen for the exhibition reflected Carson’s own activist calling and her goal of speaking “truth to power.”
“The directness of message on environmental topics from artists like Rockman, Garnett, Moore, and Wojnarowicz certainly pay homage to Carson’s own clarity of communication and her passionate love of the natural world,” he said. “Silent Spring was a call to action that resonated with a wide public; similarly, the works of art in this exhibit provoke the viewer into considering what we’re doing to the environment, and they serve as a caution and warning to all of us.”
The Academy exhibition is on view Monday-Friday from 9 am to 5 pm from November 4 through January 13, 2006. The Gallery of Art & Science is located at 2 E. 63rd Street, New York.
Founded in 1817, the New York Academy of Sciences is a worldwide nonprofit membership organization committed to building communities and advancing science.