Terry Evans (b. 1944, Kansas City, Missouri, active United States), One of the paths that lead from the coastal Greenland landmass to the Jakobshavn Icefjord (a UNESCO World Heritage Site). The icefjord leads to the mouth of the Jakobshavn Glacier. June 26, 2008, morning, 2008, archival digital print, 36 x 36", Courtesy of the Artist.

Terry Evans, Jakobshavn Glacier Evidences Greenland Climate Change

Terry Evans (b. 1944, Kansas City, Missouri, active United States), Ice fjord leading to mouth of Jakobshavn Glacier, 2008, archival digital print, 30x30", Courtesy of the Artist.

Terry Evans (b. 1944, Kansas City, Missouri, active United States), Ice fjord leading to mouth of Jakobshavn Glacier, June 27, 2008, #4, 2008, archival digital print, 36 x 36", Courtesy of the Artist.


Spencer Museum of Art
The University of Kansas
1301 Mississippi Street
Asia Gallery II
Greenland Glacier:
The Scale of Climate Change
Photographs by Terry Evans

February 7-May 24, 2009

What’s it like for an artist who has revealed ecological issues in her photographs of the American landscape to turn her attention to one of Greenland’s Glaciers? What can her work bring to that of University of Kansas scientists who are studying the same glacier?

In conjunction with the International Polar Year (March 2007-March 2009) and the exhibition Climate Change at the Poles, the Spencer commissioned Chicago-based artist Terry Evans to make a body of work about Jakobshavn Glacier that would involve the research of KU’s Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS).

CReSIS is studying the thickness of the Jakobshavn Glacier over the Greenland landmass to determine the volume of the ice. Throughout her career, Evans has demonstrated an earnest and thoughtful commitment to ecological issues such as water use and land use.

She began with a series of photographs taken at CReSIS on the KU campus. The project next took Evans to Ilulissat, Greenland, where she connected with CReSIS and NASA scientists and had air and sea access to the glacier, the Ilulissat Icefjord, and Disko Bay

The resulting work expresses the beauty of the land- and seascapes, the immense but fragile ecosystems that are under threat, and the pragmatic, day-to-day work of the scientists dedicated to extracting and analyzing data from the glacier.

"Before I went to Greenland,” Evans says, “I imagined that my work would be about describing the Jakobshavn Glacier for an audience back home, much like photographer William Henry Jackson did in 1871, when he accompanied Dr. Ferdinand Hayden, geologist to Yellowstone, bringing back gorgeous photographs of that uncharted territory.

“My reality was different. I did aerially photograph, from a helicopter, the ice fjord leading to the calving front of the Jakobshavn Glacier and I did photograph the glacier front and its surface, but what I saw was confusing and frustrating. I could not understand what I was seeing because there were no human markers below me on the ice. I had no sense of scale. Was that chunk of ice twenty stories high or knee high?

“Looking at my pictures at home gave me no clarity. I later learned that the front of the glacier is about 70 meters high, about like a twenty story building. Finally I remembered that the heart of the work that CReSIS is doing is measuring the depth of the glacier and the rate at which it’s melting and thereby being able to predict the rate of climate change and that understanding climate change is a challenging task. My own frustration in trying to understand the scale of the glacier pointed out to me that understanding the scale of climate change is equally difficult."

Terry Evans (b. 1944, Kansas City, Missouri, active United States), Ice fjord leading to mouth of Jakobshavn Glacier, 2008, archival digital print, 36x36", Courtesy of the Artist.

David Braaten, Ice Tracks, Snowmobile tracks leading back to Western Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide camp (Antarctica). The camp is barely visible near the horizon.

Change Documented in the International Polar Year

Spencer Museum of Art
The University of Kansas
1301 Mississippi Street
North & South Balcony Galleries
Climate Change at the Poles
January 24-May 24, 2009

Change is coming. From the perspective of an art museum, the prospect of climate change raises some elemental questions. For example, what impact will changing conditions have on current culture, thought, behavior, and artistic expression? Can art itself be an agent of change? What will climate change do to our sense of place? In the Polar regions, where the earth appears to be warming more quickly than it is elsewhere, we are seeing examples of accelerated climate change — a matter of great scientific discussion and political debate. By reflecting on human responses to life in these harsh, changing environments, we seek to offer new perspectives from which to comprehend existence at the Poles — and by extension, wherever one lives.

With this exhibition the Spencer intends to underscore the importance of cooperation between scientists, art historians, artists, sociologists, and others in understanding historic and present-day changes to the Poles. By integrating art, photographs, objects of material culture, maps, and quantitative data, we will attempt to delve into the cultural responses to and relationships with these unforgiving environments. During the International Polar Year (IPY), we will examine Polar materials, disciplines, and ways of seeing and being, ranging from the first IPY (1882-1883) to the current one (2007-2009). Outreach plans include lectures, a film and book series, children’s art classes and other University, community, and regional efforts.

The International Polar Year (or IPY) is a collaborative, international effort researching the polar regions. Karl Weyprecht, an Austro-Hungarian naval officer, motivated the endeavor, but died before it first occurred in 1882-1883. Fifty years later (1932-1933) a second IPY occurred. The International Geophysical Year was inspired by the IPY and occurred 75 years after the first IPY (1957-58).


The third International Polar Year is currently in progress, having begun in 2007, and continuing until 2009. It is being sponsored by the International Council for Science (ICSU) the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The chair of the International Planning Group established within the ICSU for this event is chaired by Professor Chris Rapley and Dr. Robin Bell. The Director of the IPY International Programme Office is Dr David Carlson.

The polar areas have many unique phenomena. Circulatory systems for air and water reach the surface, as do the majority of the Earth's magnetic field lines. Thick glaciers have trapped air and water from ancient times, phenonema most readilyy observed near the poles.

Unfortunately, the poles are expensive places to visit, because they are distant, cold and deserted; infrastructure is sparse and the terrain is rough in polar regions (often consisting of ice blocks with crevasses between them). International cooperative programs share the costs and maximize the number of coordinated scientific observations. The IPY is the most famous example of such a cooperative program.

Climate Change at the Poles is organized by Kate Meyer, curatorial assistant, prints & drawings; Jennifer Talbott, assistant to the director; and Angela Watts, assistant collections manager, with contributions from advisors Steve Goddard, senior curator, Jonathan Chester, Extreme Images, and Dan Wildcat, Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU).

The project consists of an alliance with the National Science Foundation’s KU-headquartered Center for Remote Sensing of Ice Sheets (CReSIS), cooperation with departments across campus, and collaboration with HINU. In addition, the Spencer has commissioned photographer Terry Evans to travel to Greenland to photograph the coasts and ice sheets — her work will be on view in the Museum’s Process Gallery, adjacent to the 20/21 Gallery.

David Braaten, CReSIS, University of Kansas, University of Washington radar sled at Western Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS) Divide camp.