Artist dives deep into emotional response to climate crisis

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What she isn’t able to fully articulate regarding her emotional response to the environmental crisis affecting the Arctic, artist Sue A. Miller has expressed through a new immersive installation opening in Barrie this month.

Using imagery of ice and water, sound and lightboxes The Ice Project draws attention to the state of crisis in the Arctic regions, in a language that is authentic to the artist. The solo, immersive installation offers a sensory, multi-media experience that aims to reconnect the viewer with the fragile environment and inspires responsible stewardship and climate action.

“It crosses back and forth over the line between realism and abstract,” said Miller.

Pre-Covid, Miller had successfully applied to be a guest artist on an Adventure Canada expedition and had a number of other plans in the works to gather visuals and sounds for her installation, all of which were cancelled due to the pandemic.

Nevertheless, she persevered using research, and her imagination.

“I wanted to bridge the gap between what everybody hears in the news and what we read, to more of an emotional expression to try to get people back in touch with their connection to the environment from a primal position. By creating this immersive experience I just feel like it’ll have more of an impact on people,” said Miller. “If people feel an emotional connection to something I feel that it causes a deeper reaction and instigates more action towards the changes that have to happen.”

She said she feels quite desperate and hopeless about the climate crisis. Although that feels very negative, Miller says there is hope in the metaphorical iceberg. She said there is still a lot of unknowns underneath “the tip of the iceberg.”

“The visuals of the icebergs is more focused on the keel underneath the surface,” said Miller, “There is still a lot we don’t know and the not knowing could be a little bit of space for hope and possibility… As a species and as a planet hopefully we can survive this and just adapt. So, there is doom and gloom, but there’s also possibility and hope.”

The images are accompanied by sounds, including archival recordings from Cornell University who worked off the coast of Baffin Island in the 1970s, of whales, seals, running water, ambient underwater sounds, a glacier front calving and an iceberg cracking as it hits the ground.

The large scale paintings are done in oils and the smaller lightboxes are done in acrylics on yup paper and frosted mylar. The effect is a macro view from underwater.

The Ice Project will be shown at the Campus Gallery, located in the Helen and Arch Brown Centre for Design and Visual Arts, at Georgian College of Applied Arts and Technology, 1 Georgian Drive, Barrie, from Sept. 22 to Oct. 23.

Miller will be speaking at the beginning of an artist’s reception on Thursday, Sept. 22, happening from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. There will also be a tour of the installation led by the artist 10 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Oct. 11.

The show marks the re-opening of the Campus Gallery and is being hung with assistance from Georgian College art students.

Attendees are advised to enter through the main door of the Helen and Arch Brown Centre for Design and Visual Arts, in Building D, and be aware that an app called Honk is required to pay for parking.

Miller will also be showing work at her studio, Mill Street Art Studio in Creemore, during Creemore Festival of the Arts on Oct. 1-2.

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