New exhibition explores environmental issues through sound

“Gauge,” a three-channel sound and video installation, was created on Baffin Island by Alexa Hatanaka, Patrick Thompson, Raven Chacon, Danny Osbourne, Sarah McNair-Landry, Eric McNair-Landry and Eric Boomer.

“Resounding Change: Sonic Art and the Environment,” an exhibition that highlights contemporary artists who use sound to engage with environmental issues,” will be on display Tuesday, Aug. 20, through Friday, Dec. 6, at Western Carolina University’s Fine Art Museum.

An exhibit reception will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 22, at the museum, located in the John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center.

Co-curated by Carolyn Grosch, curator of collections and exhibitions at the Fine Art Museum, and Tyler Kinnear, adjunct instructor in WCU’s School of Music, the exhibition features sound-based artwork that encourages visitors to listen more closely to the natural world and to think about how sound is being used in a time of environmental crisis. The works in the exhibition, which range from a large-scale video installation to more intimate encounters with sound, ask the museum visitor to consider humanity’s place in the natural world, aspects of environmental change and the current conditions that shape Earth. Featured artists include Cheryl Leonard, Raven Chacon, Andrea Polli, Lee Weisert, Matthew Burtner and others.

One notable work in the exhibition is a three-channel video installation titled “Gauge.” Created by Raven Chacon, a Navajo Nation artist, and six other collaborators, “Gauge” is an immersive gallery experience that combines sound and image. The time-lapse video component of “Gauge” captures dramatic imagery of an ice mural, created by the artists on Baffin Island, as it rises and falls with the tide. Paired with Chacon’s field recordings of crunching snow, human tools, wind and wildlife in the Canadian Artic landscape, this multisensory experience prompts reflection on human presence in the landscape, the cycles of nature, issues of climate change and notions of geologic time.

Raven Chacon will visit the WCU campus Thursday, Sept. 5, for a visiting artist reception and gallery talk from 5 to 7 p.m. A special daytime drum performance across campus is currently in development. More details about the exhibition and associated events can be found at arts.wcu.edu/sonicart.

WCU’s Fine Art Museum has a long history of collaboration and continues to serve as a site for interdisciplinary exchange. This exhibition is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the museum and the School of Music. The exhibition is part of a series of WCU events and programs that dovetail with the university’s 2019-20 campus theme “Sustainability and Environment.”

Exhibitions, receptions and associated programming at the museum are free and open to the public. Regular museum hours are Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Thursday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., with free parking available on site. However, the museum will be closed during the majority of August and will reopen Aug. 20 with the “Resounding Change” exhibition among others. To learn more, visit bardoartscenter.wcu.edu.