LEWISTON — In recent years, environmental advocates have increasingly argued that we have entered a new epoch in geological history — the Anthropocene.

Derived from a Greek word for “human,” the name refers to the fact that we live in a time in which human activity is transforming nature on a planetary scale.

The Bates College Museum of Art is holding an opening with a reception at 8:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, for the exhibition “Anthropocenic: Art About the Natural World in the Human Era.” This exhibition examines humanity’s mark on the planet with a diversity of conceptual approaches and media.

The 17 artists and collaboratives participating in “Anthropocenic” make “art about nature and the natural world, but they do it from a place that recognizes the human impacts,” says Dan Mills, Bates museum director and the exhibition’s curator.

The show tackles themes, says Mills, that include environmental degradation; sea level rise and extreme weather; resource consumption and waste; war and our atomic legacy; the role of colonialism in exploiting and defiling the environment; and the ethics of stewardship of the natural world when it is privately owned.

Running through March 23, 2019, the exhibition is accompanied with a slate of programs that include a talk by an author acclaimed for her work on climate change. At 7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, immediately preceding the exhibition opening, writer and photographer Elizabeth Rush gives the talk, “On Rising: Exertion, Activism and Art in the Age of Climate Change.” The talk takes place in the Olin Arts Center Auditorium, with the museum at 75 Russell St.

Developed with museum Education Curator Anthony Shostak and Jane Costlow, Clark A. Griffith professor of Environmental Studies at Bates, additional “Anthropocenic” programming includes films, such as Ai Weiwei’s “Flow” and Jennifer Baichwal’s “Manufactured Landscapes,” and panels featuring participating artists and Bates faculty.

Also opening at the museum on Oct. 27 is “Amy Stacey Curtis: Time and Place,” a display of drawings by a Maine artist acclaimed for her long-term, large-scale series of installation and new-media works. While not Curtis’s signature medium, her drawings nevertheless convey her fascination with themes of order, chaos and repetition. This show closes Friday, Dec. 21.

“Anthropocenic” participating artists are based as close to Bates as Maine’s Greater Portland region and as far away as the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Switzerland. Media represented in the show include such familiar practices as painting, sculpture, video, photography and other printmaking technologies. But, other artistic approaches are harder to summarize.

For instance, Adriane Herman of Cape Elizabeth will bring to Bates her ongoing installation project “Out of Sorts,” which uses bales of recyclable material to provoke viewers to ponder “the implications of excess and disposability at the personal, cultural and global levels.” Herman will have bales of Bates recyclables returned to campus for her installation outside the college’s dining Commons.

In addition to Herman, the Portlanders are Julie Poitras Santos, Jan Piribeck and Michel Droge. Droge makes paintings that, she says, place “the viewer in the midst of global climate change and environmental upheaval.”

With coastal flooding a particular focus, Piribeck uses digital geographic technology to explore artistic and scientific interpretations of the landscape, in this case Portland’s Back Cove. Piribeck’s “King Tide Party” events mark peak high tides, one of which will occur during winter semester. 

In “Library of Mud,” Poitras Santos uses text and video to relate human memory to the sequestration of atmospheric carbon in a wetland at the Bates-Morse Mountain Conservation Area, managed by the college. 

Also showing their work in “Anthropocenic” are:

Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilla — will show their video “The Great Silence,” in which a nearly extinct parrot tells a fable that indicts human disregard for other species.

Sammy Baloji — A Congolese artist, he addresses the legacy of colonialism by juxtaposing archival ethnographic portraits with contemporary images of derelict postindustrial landscapes.

Timothy Berry — Berry’s complex, layered paintings combine images of humans and wildlife to form tributes to, and a eulogy for, Earth’s 10 most endangered animal species.

Ursula Biemann — Biemann, a Swiss artist, uses the “ur-liquids” of oil and water as the themes for video essays set in flood-prone Bangladesh and Canada’’s controversial tar sands region.

Deb Hall — Hall’s photographs taken on a remote trail in Idaho probe the ethics of private ownership of nature, and conflicts between private ownership and public interests.

Laurie Hogin — She makes allegorical paintings whose mutant plants and animals, posed as if for classical still life or portraiture, explore interactions between nature and human nature.

Isabella Kirkland — Kirkland brings painstaking technique and a classic still-life aesthetic to paintings and prints that explore issues of wildlife exploitation and extinction.

Eve Andree Laramee — Laramee makes “alternative fact sheets,” resembling National Park Service handouts, that spotlight impacts of nuclear legacy sites adjacent to national parks. She has created a work about the decommissioned Maine Yankee nuclear power plant specifically for the Bates show.

Michael Light — Light’s bound, large-scale aerial photographs depict sweeping human impacts on the land, notably Bikini Atoll, rendered uninhabitable by a nuclear weapon test.

Nathalie Miebach — She translates data related to astronomy, ecology and meteorology into woven sculptures, installations and musical weather scores.

Lori Nix and Kathleen Gerber — These folks use dioramas and photography to depict human settings — a subway car, a commercial laundry — reclaimed by nature in a post-human future.

Superflex — Superflex is a Danish collective, and offers the film “Flooded McDonald’s,” which hints at the consumer-driven influence — and impotence — of multinational companies in the face of climate change.

Maika’i Tubbs — Using detritus gathered on the beaches of Hawaii — including “plastiglomerate,” combining natural and man-made materials, notably micro plastic —Tubbs makes sculptures and installations reflecting themes of obsolescence, consumption and ecology.

Bates College Museum of Art exhibitions and programming are open to the public at no cost. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Mondays and Wednesdays from September through May.

FMI, contact 207-786-6158 or [email protected]

“The Ghostly Crew of the Andrea Gail” (2011) is a sculpture from reeds, wood and data by Nathalie Miebach.

“Untitled 13” (2006), an archival digital photograph on satin matte paper, is part of the “Memoire” series by Sammy Baloji.

“Watering Hole (Social Species in the Late Anthropocene)” is a 2017 oil painting by Laurie Hogin.

Timothy Berry’s “Black Rhinoceros” (2015) is a work in oil, asphaltum, inkjet and acrylic pigment on paper.


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