“What Will Nature Do?” — The Exhibit

In the Corvallis Arts Center’s current exhibit, “What Will Nature Do?”, the arts and sciences intersect as creatives aim to spread a more positive outlook on climate change. The exhibit showcases an eclectic collection of pieces that provide alternative messages to the typical gloomy outlook dominating conversations on climate change and human impacts on the environment.   

Climate scientist and artist Dr. Dominique Bachelet leads the exhibit alongside microbiologist and artist Dr. Jerri Bartholomew, and Art’s Center Curator Hester Coucke.   

Dr. Bachelet spoke with the Advocate in September, explaining that those involved in communicating climate science need to “start focusing on positive stories, the resilience of nature, its ability to adapt, the opportunities we have to change our ways and start adapting to change, the success stories around the world of people promoting a more sustainable way to share the earth’s resources.” 

The collaborative exhibit allows visitors to share their thoughts via sticky notes. One visitor noted that the exhibit showcases the “many ways of depicting climate change, science, and challenges.” Another viewer said, “spectacular… I love seeing what is in people’s heads.”  

Artists in the exhibit come from a variety of disciplinary backgrounds. As a result, some pieces are closely tied to concepts of data collection and the scientific process, while others take their inspiration from the beauty of the natural world, and ideas of regrowth and resilience.   

A piece by Dr. Bartholomew titled “There will be good years and bad years” reminds viewers of the importance of questioning assumptions in scientific data. The piece uses graphs made out of glass to visualize predicted risk of salmon disease in the Klamath river.   

In contrast, artist Lauren S. Ohlgren questions the utility of collecting environmental data without enacting change in their piece “It’s All in the Data.”  

Nancy Helmsworth’s “Oh my, you are so beautiful” translates the beauty and complexity of forest ecosystems into a painting. Helmsworth finds hope in focusing on the forest floor as a symbol of support and regeneration.  

A number of pieces in the show were inspired by fire, a subject that is close to home for many Oregonians, especially after the frightening wildfire seasons of recent years. “Nature Creates Beauty from Darkness,” by Elmira Bets Cole, sees the aftermath of Oregon fires as a reminder of the resilience of humans and the ability of nature to re-establish itself and flourish once more. 

These pieces, along with many others, can be found at the Corvallis Art Center, located at 700 SW Madison Avenue. The “What Will Nature Do?” exhibit runs through November 13, 2021, with a reception taking place on October 14 from 5:30-7:30 p.m.  

An Art for Lunch Talk via Zoom is scheduled for October 21 at 12 p.m., and a Special Panel Discussion via Zoom is scheduled for October 28 at 7 p.m. Links to these events can be found on The Arts Center’s website 

By Olivia Goodfriend