Exhibition Review: Diane Tuft at Marlborough Gallery
Written by Liz Von Klemperer
Diane Tuft’s solo show The Arctic Melt opened at Marlborough Gallery Gallery on June 21, the first day of summer. Visitors stepped off the hot Manhattan streets into an open and bright gallery space filled with stark, areal views of icy mountain ranges and close ups of fleecy snow. Behind the stark beauty of these images is a dire message. As Tuft explains in the very first sentence of her artist statement, “the Arctic is melting faster than any other place in the world.”
Tuft traveled by plane, boat, and helicopter during the summers of 2015 and 2016 to document landscapes in Svalbard, Norway, the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice, and the icebergs and ice sheet of Greenland. Although humans are absent from her images, the destructive influence of climate change is signified by jagged cracks in ice and flowing water. Relics, Isfjorden, Norway, for example, features a single break in a sheet of ice. Titles are an essential aspect of Tuft’s work, as they communicate the environmental message behind images that appear peaceful and serene upon first glance. The title Relics, for example, references an architectural structure that has been worn down by nature and eroded. Tuft, however, reverses this narrative by pointing to a scenario in which a natural landform is being incrementally destroyed at the hands of humans.
The Arctic Melt combines both panoramic views such as Fire and Ice, Arctic Ocean, 5:12 PM, 88 degrees N, with close-up images like The Arctic Melt, Greenland Sea, Arctic Ocean, 4:48 PM, 79 degrees N. Wide views exemplify the power of nature and the vastness of choppy seas, while close up images point to environmental fragility at the hands of climate change.
A video installation is tucked in an alcove of the gallery. Audio of dripping water was superimposed onto Tuft’s images, as well as clips of poetry. The phrase “broken arches weep,” for example, slowly materialized over the image Ultraviolet Shapes, Disko Bay, Greenland, followed by audio of a tumbling avalanche. The ultimate effect is a dissonance between beauty and destruction. Humans are responsible for the arctic melt, and therefore it is up to us to create change. To that effect, profits from the book sales of The Arctic Melt: Images of a Disappearing Landscape during the gallery opening were donated to the Natural Resources Defense Council.
The last words in Tuft’s film installation are “refract and reflect,” which finally dissolved into an image of dripping water. This concept sums up Tuft’s philosophy behind her images. Through photographing a subject, we can process information and come to new conclusions about reality. The Arctic Melt will be on display at Marlborough Gallery until July 20. You can find more information here.
Click here for the video of the installation!