ICE: Glaciers Melting & Avalanche Paintings by Marlene Tseng Yu
Recent news reports reveal that things on earth are melting. From the East Antarctic ice sheet to glaciers in Switzerland to the famed snows of Kilimanjaro, we are witnessing one of the earth’s great thaws. Like many of earth’s processes, most changes to its bodies of snow and ice are slow, with tiny incremental losses and gains occurring so gradually that we hardly notice them until we see the dramatic before and after photographs. Sometimes, however, we are lucky enough to witness the breathtaking—a glacier calving or an avalanche descending a steep slope—and we are left with a sense of awe and wonder at nature’s sublimity.
Nature’s transformations—both seen and unseen– are vividly re-enacted in Marlene Tseng Yu’s paintings. Yu confronts and examines nature’s processes with the tenacity and patience of a scientist and, like a scientist, she appreciates that all of nature is ultimately an abstraction. The whole of a Yu painting is made up of thousands of intensely-felt abstract details each of which has no meaning outside the context of that whole. And Yu shares with many of the great nature painters—from Bierstadt to Rothko—an understanding that the whole must ultimately be more than the sum of those detailed parts. Yu is the rare painter who successfully contemplates nature’s modest, micro processes as well as its cataclysmic, macro events.
Nowhere is Yu more successful in expressing the sublime aspects of nature’s forming and reforming, loss and accumulation than in the three series that are the subject of this exhibition: “Glacier Melting” (1965-2012), “Glacier Garden” (1965-2007) and “Avalanche” (1968-2009). In these series, Yu traces the course of snow and ice in a way that not only reveals their inner structures, but also announces their dramatic interaction with oceans, mountains and landscape. Yu captures the intimacy of a melting drop of snow as well as the power of an avalanche.
Yu graduated with a Masters in Fine Art from the University of Colorado in 1967. Since then, her interest in the environment and the need to protect it has grown steadily and she is the Founder and Curator of the Rainforest Art Foundation. Yu has been the subject of 67 solo exhibitions in the United States, Europe and the Far East. Her work can be found in over 1000 public and private collections throughout the world. Yu lives and works in New York City.