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Photo by: Katie Ione Craney

This article is the latest in our series #Art4Climate, a joint initiative by the UNFCCC secretariat and Julie’s Bicycle on the work of artists who make the issue of climate change more accessible and understandable by featuring it in their work. It was inspired by a session at the Salzburg Global Seminar in early 2017.

The Alaskan based artist Katie Ione Craney is drawing attention to the impacts of climate change by creating artwork that reflects the rapidly changing landscape surrounding her home.

Katie is deeply concerned about climate change, and about the threats to Alaska’s environment from resource extraction which is partly driving climate change. Her work revolves around the relationship between nature and human dependency on nature for survival.

“There is a paradox to living in the north. Much of Alaska’s economy, historic to present, is based on extraction: the fur trade, mining, forestry, fisheries, and most significantly, the discovery and reliance on oil and gas. Hands down, this land is full of valuable resources,” she says.

“Many look at this land and see only dollar signs, while others see vast wilderness, vibrant cultures, and complete, complex ecosystems. The north is experiencing rapid climatic changes. In Alaska, we hear the news on our local public radio station and see images from across the state; we see change happening right outside our front door.”

Such changes include the thinning, and disappearance of Arctic sea ice, melting permafrost, tidewater glaciers grounding, warmer winters, earlier springs, and salmon fisheries weakened by inconsistent temperature and changing rainfall patterns.

The art work "You Are a Tender History of Ice" - 50 metal plates, covered with varied materials

The work Katie Ione Craney creates consists of scrap metal plates covered in cloth, wax and other materials, depicting various landscapes in transformation, including imagery of melting ice, species under threat, and loss of old growth forests.

“These small vignettes are my way of breaking down complicated, long-term social and ecological natures of a changing climate. I reflect on survival, community, and my role as an artist to embrace and decipher this change,” she says.

The art work "Please, Continue" - Ink, tissue paper, and wax on scrap metal


"Feedback Loop" - Silver leaf on scrap metal

Seeing the Environment with Different Eyes

Recently, Katie travelled with a team of researchers for two weeks on board the conservation cruise ship, Sea Wolf, travelling through the Inside Passage, from Poulsbo, Washington, to Juneau, Alaska, to raise climate awareness, as well as to find out about threats posed by the mining industry to the coastal communities, waterways, and the region’s salmon, which is important for the local economy.

During the trip, she asked the researchers and other participants to look at their surroundings through the eyes of an artist, and to consider the linkages between what they saw, from a human, biological, geological, and historical point of view.

“Using handmade viewfinders, we framed small images of our surroundings and studied the items within the frame. This invited investigation of the interconnections existing within the composition, and allowed us to practice looking beyond the actual objects while at the same time focusing on the details inside the frame. Challenging ourselves with how and where to look encouraged questions and exploration of the nuances of place, and opened up discussion on what we actually see, metaphorically and physically.” 


The art work "The Land Pulls Apart" - Silver leaf, paper, and wax on scrap metal

Art inspired by the Inside Passage voyage will be exhibited February 2018, at Alaska Pacific University, in Anchorage.

Katie Ione Craney has also shown work at the International Gallery of Contemporary Art in Anchorage, with a solo exhibition titled “Albedo.” Albedo is the proportion of radiated light that is reflected by a surface – a phenomenon that is decreasing in the Arctic due to melting sea ice caused by climate change.

“The necessary reflectiveness of ice, its albedo, not only affects pack ice – ice in the Arctic that remains year-round – but everyday life for millions of people around the world. As ice melts, the surrounding water absorbs more sunlight, rather than reflecting it back into space, therefore increasing warming in the ocean, which continues the cycle of melt and absorption of solar energy. The overall albedo of the Arctic decreases due to more open water than ice,” she explains.

This fall, Katie will spend a month as an artist in residence in a small Icelandic town where she will research local attitudes and adaptations towards the changing climate.

You can find more about her work here.

To learn more about the conservation cruise click here.

Photo credit: Katie Ione Craney

#Art4Climate is a joint initiative by the UNFCCC and Julie’s Bicycle to spot and propose super recent and new works in this broad field, but we also want to hear from you! Please send any proposals for showcasing to newsroom@unfccc.int or Chiara@juliesbicycle.com.
Please amplify our web posts with Twitter hashtag #Art4Climate and #COP23!

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