Taking as her inspiration the Icelandic term jökulhlaup (a glacial flood), United States Geological Survey historical studies of glacial change, and French phenomenological philosopher Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s theories on perception and meaning, Betsy Ruth Byers introduces a new body of work titled, Sensitive Indicators, at Kolman & Pryor Gallery. Sensitive Indicators opens February 25 and runs through April 29. An artist reception will be held on Saturday, March 25, 7-9 p.m.
While the work is influenced by how glacial landscapes are radically changing due to global warming, Byers insists her work is not about climate change. “Glaciers are a particularly sensitive indicator of climate change, which is a concern that runs through my life and work,” she says. “But what’s reflected in the work, instead, is my interest in the slow movement of landscapes over time. The work is underpainted with my thinking about philosophy and ecology, and about how our sensory experiences create our reality.”
Byers has long been influenced by water. Early works about swimming at night “evolved into thinking about our relationship to water, then glaciers,” she says. The aspects of a landscape painting that viewers usually perceive first—including light, space, horizon lines and texture—“become intertwined and internalized, and constitute what we experience as the ever-shifting present moment,” Byers says, with reference to Merleau-Ponty’s theories on perception.
At the same time, she adds, these new works indicate an evolution in her thinking about painting, abstraction and image making. In addition to large works in acrylic on canvas, Byers is also creating smaller works that include watercolor, paint and graphite on paper. “In my works, I create a world for people to step into, experience and react to,” she says. “In this show, I’m presenting the idea of movement and time in the landscape, and working more abstractly than I have in past exhibitions.”