Friday, October 17, 2008

Global Warming at the Icebox, Part 3

Third in our series on the Global Warming at the Icebox exhibition, we turn our focus to Elizabeth Mackie's sculpture, King Ortier and Little Siberia.

Mackie's piece can be seen to the left as viewers walk past Shai Zakai's Library. It consists of a number of large sheets of handmade paper suspended from the ceiling. Each sheet decreases in size from the viewer when standing in front of the sculpture. The sheets hang just below eye level, creating a cavernlike space beneath them (see photo above, by the Graphic Conscience).

Mackie's piece intends to suggest the changes global warming has wrought on the Alps, particularly the decrease in the size of glaciers. The piece itself is more evocative of caves or glacial tunnels. I could not help but wish that Mackie had been more cognizant of color. She has left her cotton/abaca sheets their natural tone. Instead, I would suggest considering pigmenting them, not strongly, but a delicate blue, maybe with a small addition of luster pigment. I feel that will have captured more accurately the shimmer of blue ice and snow that forms glaciers. Alternatively, this could have been achieved with blue light.

Handmade paper has a presence, and its stillness reaches out beyond its boundaries to draw viewers closer. As a material, it inherently evokes its natural origins of water and plant fiber. Mackie presents the raw, textured side of her paper to viewers, allowing us to marvel and its deckle edges and character. She states that the goal of the piece is to "symbolize the melting of the ice cap over the last century."

In response to this statement, I suggest that Mackie rearrange the order of her sheets of paper to better communicate this goal. Their current order leaves this suggestion a little vague as to whether they are shrinking or growing. Additionally, I think Mackie should consider hanging them below eye level, so that when viewers encounter them, it is clear that they are to indicate the waning of glaciers and not their expansion. However, it is an exquisite beginning of something that I hope grows to become an environment, something that draws viewers in and so when they depart, they understand what they are on the verge of losing.

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