Chasing Icebergs: Art and a Disappearing Landscape,
Frederic Church’s Historic Art Expedition Shines New
Light on Contemporary Climate Challenges
The Olana Partnership, in collaboration with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, presents Chasing Icebergs: Art and a Disappearing Landscape, the first winter exhibition at Olana State Historic Site. The exhibition, shown primarily in the Sharp Family Gallery at Olana, highlights Frederic Church’s iceberg sketches from his 1859 intrepid voyage to the Arctic. Risking his life, Church chartered a ship to the treacherous waters surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador—an area known as Iceberg Alley—on a mission that made him the first American artist to explore the region for the purpose of painting icebergs, a landmark event in the history of art. The exhibit includes photographs and historic texts which Church collected about icebergs and Arctic exploration, as well as the work of four contemporary artists who contemplate the wonder and fragility of Earth’s polar environments. Just as Church used his major work, The Icebergs, to reflect on the major crisis of his time—the Civil War—many contemporary artists reflect on the sublime power of Arctic ice and use it to uncover the global crisis of our time—climate change and the immediate danger it poses to our future and that of these imperiled wonders of nature.
Joining Frederic Church’s works in this exhibition are artworks and writings by his companions and fellow explorers Dr. Isaac Israel Hayes and Louis L. Noble, as well as photographs from William Bradford’s Greenland expedition in 1869. Many of the historic works come from Church’s collection at Olana and illuminate Church’s long fascination with the Arctic region. The exhibition delves into the history of exploration, artistic representation of the Arctic, and the Indigenous peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador—such as the Mi’kmaq, Innu, and Inuit.
“The Olana Partnership recognizes that Olana is a source of inspiration throughout the entire year,” said Sean Sawyer. “In addition to our public tour program which continues in all seasons, this exhibition will be our first presented in the winter months, with more people in our region looking to places like Olana for increased cultural offerings.”
Contemporary artists include Lynn Davis, Zaria Forman, Mark Igloliorte, and Kambui Olujimi, Lynn Davis is a world-traveling photographer who in large format photography over five expeditions to Greenland captured icebergs, much the way Frederic Church did with vast oil on canvas paintings. Zaria Forman circumnavigated an iceberg in a similar way to Frederic Church, capturing details and sound through an immersive film. Mark Igloliorte draws from his heritage from Nunatsiavut, Labrador, and Inuktitut language in his interdisciplinary works of paint, performance, and installation. Alluding to the consequences of inaction, Kambui Olujimi challenges the concept of inevitability through installations of glass sculpture and water.
“Frederic Church’s early attention to the subject of Arctic ice was an important moment in a global career that was defined by painting the unpaintable,” says William L. Coleman, PhD., Former Director of Collections and Exhibitions of The Olana Partnership. “Through the objects in this exhibition, visitors will see how Church’s ideas took shape, how he shared them with national and international audiences, and how contemporary artists are continuing his legacy in new ways.”
In conjunction with the exhibition, and in collaboration with Black Dome Press, The Olana Partnership has reproduced a new edition of Louis L. Noble’s 1861 book After Icebergs with a Painter, an engaging glimpse into the expedition he took alongside Frederic Church in 1859 to the waters of Newfoundland and Labrador. This important book, long out of print, features a new introductory essay and colored reproductions of most of Church’s iceberg sketches and paintings, as well as the first detailed map of his journey. The book is available online and at the Olana Museum Store.
Chasing Icebergs: Art and a Disappearing Landscape was curated by William L. Coleman, Ph.D., Former Director of Collections & Exhibitions with support from Allegra Davis, Associate Curator, Ida Brier, Archivist/Librarian, all of The Olana Partnership, in collaboration with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation. The exhibition opens on November 20, 2022 and will be on view through March 26, 2023. For tickets and additional information, visit OLANA.org/icebergs.
This exhibition has been made possible by support from the donors to The Olana Partnership’s Novak-Ferber Exhibitions Fund, with additional support from James and Janet Dicke. General
support for The Olana Partnership’s programs is provided by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
About Olana and The Olana Partnership: Olana is the greatest masterwork of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), the preeminent American artist of the mid-19th century and the most important artist’s
home, studio, and designed landscape in the United States. Church designed Olana as a holistic environment integrating his advanced ideas about art, architecture, landscape design, and
environmental conservation. Olana’s 250-acre artist-designed landscape with five miles of carriage roads and a Persian-inspired house at its summit embraces unrivaled panoramic views of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains and welcomes more than 170,000 visitors annually. The landscape is open for guided touring, and reservations are highly recommended. The landscape is open daily 8 AM-sunset.
Olana State Historic Site, administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic
Preservation, is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the most visited sites in the state.
The Olana Partnership, a private not-for-profit education corporation, works cooperatively with New
York State to support the restoration, conservation, and interpretation of Olana.