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The Last Glacier

Crop of Todd Anderson's Tyndall Glacier, ROMO–The Last Glacier

It’s no secret that the world’s melting glaciers are contributing to rising global sea levels and warming oceans. But this massive glacial melt is also creating radical changes in surrounding landscapes, altering the composition of soil and plant life in ways that can lead to the collapse of entire habitats. As the glaciers disappear, our world is dramatically altered.

The Last Glacier project is a collaboration between three artists of international renown—printmakers Bruce Crownover and Todd Anderson and photographer Ian van Coller—who are dedicated to capturing the fading majesty of Earth’s remaining glaciers. The three artists began their collaboration in 2010 as a way to respond to the rapidly retreating glaciers of Glacier National Park in Montana, where in 1850 there were 150 glaciers. Today the park holds only 25, and these are predicted to disappear by the end of the century.

Since 2010, the trio of artists have expanded their work to creatively document the impact of our steadily warming planet on glaciers through larger collaborations with scientists at glacial landscapes in Colorado and Alberta, Canada, as well as Iceland, Tanzania, and beyond.

Their process begins with observation and collection. The three spend a few weeks each summer hiking deep into the backcountry of a glacier to sketch, paint, and make photographs. Upon their return, the artists retreat to their respective studios to refine their images and translate them into large-scale woodcuts and digital prints. The drama, brilliant color, and sheer beauty of the finished work offer a stark reminder of what we are losing to the rapid, sweeping changes in Earth’s climate system. 

The resulting images have an intense emotional charge that reflects the artists’ passion and commitment. Appropriately monumental in scale, they capture both grandeur and pathos, beauty and loss. In the words of essayist Nancy Mahoney, Todd Anderson and Bruce Crownover’s reductive woodcuts “are layered landscapes that go beyond realistic representations. Their prints portray a larger truth about the glacial texture, mass, subtle colorations, and antiquity, which cannot be captured in scientific prose.” In contrast, van Coller’s subtle, richly detailed photographs bring into sharp focus the texture and grandeur of these disappearing landscapes. 

By engaging directly with climatologists and glaciologists, the artists ensure that their artwork and ancillary materials are grounded in accurate, up-to-date scientific information. They also work closely with writers and curators, sharing their work through exhibitions, limited-edition books, public talks, and a series of interconnected websites.

“We’re trying to bridge gaps and connect with as many folks [about this issue] as we can,” Anderson says.

Todd Anderson, Salamander Glacier – The Last Glacier, 2014. Reductive woodcut, 15 by 30 inches.

Todd Anderson, Blackfoot Glacier – The Last Glacier, 2014. Reductive jigsaw woodcut, 20 by 30 inches.

Bruce Crownover, Rowe Glacier, 2017. Reductive woodcut, 18 by 24 inches.

Bruce Crownover, Taylor Glacier, 2017. Reductive woodcut, 18 by 24 inches.

Bruce Crownover, Tyndall Glacier, 2017. Reductive woodcut, 18 by 24 inches.

Ian van Coller, Chaney Glacier, Glacier National Park, 2013.

Ian van Coller, Chaney Glacier, Glacier National Park, 2013.

Contributors

Todd Anderson was born in Rochester, Minnesota. Anderson received a BFA from UW-Madison and an MFA from the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. Over the course of several years, he apprenticed and eventually became a fine art collaborative printer. Today Anderson is a professor of printmaking at Clemson University in South Carolina.

Jody Clowes is the director of the Wisconsin Academy's James Watrous Gallery. With years of experience developing and curating exhibitions, running gallery programs, and writing about art, her background includes senior positions at Milwaukee Art Museum, Detroit's Pewabic Pottery, and the UW-Madison's Design Gallery.

Bruce Crownover was born in 1961 in Southern California. He earned his BFA from Utah State University and his MFA in printmaking from UW-Madison in 1989.  Crownover worked with Keiji Shinohara, a Japanese Ukiyo-e master printer at Cherrywood Press in Boston, creating prints for Sean Scully, Chuck Close, Robert Stackhouse and John Newman.

Ian van Coller was born and raised in South Africa. He moved to the United States in 1992, where he received a BFA from Arizona State University and MFA from the University of New Mexico. Since 2006, van Coller has been a professor of photography at Montana State University in Bozeman, where he lives with his wife, two children and two dogs.

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