“Nunatak,” on display at UA’s Lionel Rombach Gallery Dec. 19-Jan. 20, is a solo, multimedia exhibit by Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry Graduate Fellow Jonathan Marquis that investigates glaciers and ice. His Like a Glacier fellowship with Confluencenter made this exhibit possible. The artist reception is Jan. 20, 2 p.m.-4 p.m.
Following is a Q&A with the artist.
Why is it called “Nunatak”?
A nunatak is an exposed portion of a mountain that is buried underneath an ice field or glacier. I am using the geologic term as a metaphor to imaginatively disinter the imperceptible due to the limits of human perception and the body. It’s kind of like the idea or image of an iceberg where most of it is underwater, but in this case it is a mountain under ice.
How many pieces are in the show and how many years of work do they represent?
Likely somewhere between 6-10 works depending on how the install unfolds, potentially a few more. All of the works have been made this year.
What do you want people to experience with this show?
I want people to put themselves under the ice, to think in deep time, and let the glacier crawl into their belly.
Why should people in Tucson, far away from glaciers, care?
The various processes on Earth, like climate and humanity, are profoundly interdependent and entwined, affecting all of us, not to mention all the wildlife and endangered species, like bull trout and wolverines that depend on the cool water and climate. In Tucson, most of the water we drink comes from snow in the mountains of Colorado and Utah. Volcanic activity on the other side of the pacific was partly responsible for the saguaros that are ubiquitous to the area. In a global world, everything matters. Plus, I think, glaciers care about you.
What inspired this project?
Over the past three summers I have been traversing remote mountain ranges drawing, photographing and contemplating glaciers in Montana. This last summer I also visited several glaciers in Alaska. This exhibition is inspired by my time in the field and my speculation on the relationship between humans and nature, as well as my concerns over climate change and environmental destruction. I have also been wondering about what it means to be living in the age of the Anthropocene.
When did you start drawing glaciers?
In 2014, after funding the Glacier Drawing Project on Kickstarter. Actually, I did draw one glacier, Sunrise Glacier, back in 2003 on one of my first backpacking trips in Montana.
How many glaciers have you drawn?
I am somewhere around 35-40 by now, and have probably made well over 100 drawings, as I usually make multiple drawings of each glacier and have been to several glaciers more than once. Not to mention hundreds if not thousands of photographs, some video recordings and a handful of cyanotypes I’ve made on site.
Are there any that particularly stand out/are memorable?
There are too many to recall here. All of them really stand out in their own way, as each trip is meaningful and challenging – not to mention walking around any place touched by glaciers is absolutely magnificent. I go on most of the trips alone, which provides a lot of time to wonder and think. The trips with my dog are an absolute delight, and there is a special spot in my heart for the trips I’ve been on with friends.
How is the Confluencenter Fellowship helping your work?
The Confluencenter is a tremendous resource at the University of Arizona. As one of their grad fellows I have been able to devote time to work in the field and in the studio, and I’ve learned from other professionals and fellows. Most importantly I am able to bring my work to the public through exhibitions like “Nunatak,” the three I had in Montana over the summer, and my thesis exhibition which will open in April.
What do you hope to accomplish with the project?
I want people to have an imaginative departure point to think and feel their way around their relationship to the more-than-human world. As Maurice Merleau-Ponty suggests, “The landscape is not so much an object, as it is the homeland of our thoughts.”
The Lionel Rombach Gallery, 1031 N. Olive Rd., is open 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday. Visit online at Galleries.art.arizona.edu/lionel.html.