The intersection of Art and the Environment

For over 40 years, Diane Burko has investigated monumental geological phenomena. Her practice at the intersection of art and science focuses on issues of climate change. Originally basing her imagery on research and visual data from scientists, she soon moved to bear witness directly in the Polar regions. In her painting projects such as ‘Politics of Snow’ and ‘Polar Investigations’ she explores visual strategies, translating data into imagery.

Coral Life Cycle (1-4), 20″ x 20″ each. Acrylic on canvas, 2018


Coral Life Cycle 1, 20″ x 20″ Acrylic on canvas 2018

Coral Quartet #4, 60″ x 60″ Acrylic on Canvas 2018

Diane Burko is an artist who has explored locations on the ground, underwater and in the air from open-door helicopters and planes with cameras, drones and sketchpads. Traveling from the temperate zones of America to Western Europe, from rain forests to glaciers, from active volcanoes and to coral reefs below the equator, her art merges a vision that is at once panoramic, intimate and sometimes provocative.

For over a decade her practice has been situated at the intersection of art, science, and the environment. Addressing issues of climate change, she started with glacial melt and rising sea-levels to currently concentrating on our ocean’s coral reef ecosystems. She contributes to the public dialogue by learning from researchers in the field, bearing witness to the actual phenomenon and then processing that knowledge visually.  “I see myself as a subversive artist, creating compelling images which in turn inform the public of the dire threats facing our planet.”

Coral Reef Grid, 27” x 108” overall Acrylic on canvas 2018

In an effort to further the depth of her environmental investigations and expression, she collaborates with scientists, including glaciologists and oceanographers. Her relationship with scientists is symbiotic: “I want my work to accurately reflect the science and the urgency of climate change, and they want me to help them communicate their research to the public through my art. Through facts and images, I endeavor to make the invisible visual and visceral.”

Great Barrier Reef, 60″ x 84″ Acrylic on Canvas 2018

In a project called Politics of Snow, she utilized their visual data, such as chronological photographs (revealing the recessional history of glaciers), Landsat maps, ice melt charts and diagrams. In Polar Investigations she emphasized “bearing witness” to the empirical evidence of that data with her own expeditions to the Polar Regions. She considers ice to be a key indicator of environmental change.  She is currently exploring how coral reef ecosystems provide yet another indicator to the urgent issues of global warming. She views her commitment to witness, record, translate, and communicate scientific information though paintings and photographs as an antidote to climate doubt.

Arctic Melting, July 2016 (After NASA) 60″x 84″ Oil and Mixed Media on Canvas 2016


Data: Ilulissat I 50"x 50" Oil on Canvas 2016
Data: Ilulissat II 50"x 50" Oil on Canvas 2016
Data: Ilulissat III 50"x 50" Oil on Canvas 2016
Data: Ilulissat IV 50"x 50" Oil on Canvas 2016


Visions of the Beaufort Sea II, 42″x 42” Oil on Canvas 2016


Visions of the Beaufort Sea IV, 20″x 42″ Oil on Canvas 2016


Landsat Series, 40″x 80″ overall Oil on Canvas 2015


Novaya Zemlya I, 42″ x 42″, Oil and Mixed. Media on Canvas 2016-17


All images copyright and courtesy of Diane Burko



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