Artist Statement

Detail, Panorama Study, Karen Marston

Detail, Panorama Study, 2017

For the past several years I have been painting natural and not so natural disasters, triggered by the near simultaneous explosions of the oilrig in the Gulf of Mexico and the Icelandic volcano. These images became an external manifestation of an apprehensive mood fed by a growing litany of frightening catastrophes, a conflation of many destructive crises consuming the world. The scope of this continuing exploration broadened to include forest fires, hurricanes and tornadoes. Larger and more frightening than ever, amplified rather than tamed by modernity, I have been mesmerized by the power of these elemental threats.

Hovering all the while behind the violence and roar of these dramatic events, is possibly the most dangerous and destructive disaster of all, the melting of the polar icecaps. Literally at the ends of the earth, out of everyday view, the drop-by-drop melting of the poles threatens all.

I visited Newfoundland in 2017 to see one of the nearest available glimpses of icebergs. The glaciers in Greenland send pieces of themselves across the ocean to Canada where they make their way down the northeast coast each spring. Like the increasing onslaught of other unnaturally intensified phenomena, Greenland’s glaciers are melting faster and faster—two of its four ice shelves already gone, it is launching more and more icebergs. The season of my visit approached century old records for the astounding numbers of icebergs seen. These ten to fifteen thousand year old glacial chunks arrive in Newfoundland at the end of their lifespan, battered by the ocean waves, sun and wind. They are breaking, shrinking, dissolving. These harbingers come with a message, like otherworldly creatures from a distant time, dying before our eyes, a literal and metaphoric warning of more losses to come.