An alpine meadow stretches out in subtle shifts of green, interrupted by a stony path winding towards craggy mountains, which fade away into the ephemerally gradiated blue-and-yellow sky. This artwork, with nine others by printmaker and Clemson University professor Todd Anderson, comprise The Last Glacier exhibit in Eastern Mennonite University’s Margaret Martin Gehman Art Gallery. It is on display through March 3.
The Last Glacier is a collaboration started by Anderson, with photographer Ian van Coller and painter Bruce Crownover, in 2010 to record the Glacier National Park in Montana. At the park’s opening in 1910, it held 150 glaciers; now, there are fewer than 25, which are expected to be gone by 2020.
When he heard about this decline, Anderson says, “my first thought was, I wonder which artists are documenting these glaciers.” The answer was none. So in 2010, Anderson began a 500-mile journey hiking and climbing through the park to preserve the landscape through his art.
“My core belief is that these types of places, wilderness, they need to be creatively seen and they need to be documented,” said Anderson at the Feb. 3 gallery opening. About 70 people clustered around his woodcut reductions, which are made by a repetitive process of carving, inking and printing. The corresponding wooden block hangs by each piece. Each print took anywhere from four to thirteen “runs” to produce the final multi-layered image.
Anderson’s carving evokes the textures of rock, vegetation, ice and snow. His color palettes vary from subtle, otherworldly and nearly monochromatic to 10-color ranges reminiscent of early color photography.
His purpose overlaps with photojournalism as well. “We look at [photos] and we say, this is real, this is true, because they are. My hope is that you can go to this actual location and look down on this particular glacier,” he says, pointing to a print. Each of the works have corresponding GPS coordinates. “I’m really trying to create that experience where, the longer you look, you see more and more.”
Professor Anna Westfall, who curates the gallery, is responsible for Anderson’s visit. Both she and Anderson earned MFA degrees at the University of New Mexico, though several years apart. A mutual acquaintance pointed Westfall to his work, which she thought would be of interest to the EMU community.
Gallery assistant Hannah Eve, a senior at EMU, helped hang the show. “The shows that come in, they’re all different, but this one has a special feel about it,” she said.
Anderson and his collaborators are currently wrapping up projects in the Rocky Mountain National Park and at Mt. Kilimanjaro. The National Endowment for the Arts and South Carolina Arts Commission have helped fund their work, but Anderson says the collaborations are ultimately dependent on print and art book sales. Funding pending, Anderson’s next artistic sojourn will take him to Antarctica.