Art+Environment Conference


On October 9-11, 2014, the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno hosted the third Art+Environment Conference. MFA-IA Program Director Russell Dudley and MFA Graduate Admissions Counselor Sarah Lillegard attended the 2.5 days of lectures, panels and discussions. Below are some of the Sarah’s highlights from the conference:

With the prodigious Late Harvest as the featured exhibition of the conference, most of Friday’s morning presentation stemmed off of the exhibit’s theme of human/animal interactions. One of the artists featured in the exhibit, contemporary sculptor and photographer Petah Coyne, discussed her art and the installation Untitled #1205 (Virgil). She introduced her work by sharing the story of her multiple year obsession with buying, collecting and “installing” dead fish. This was a wonderful entry into Coyne’s method of storytelling, which weaves together personal anecdotes and literary references into the description of her practice and its influences.



Following Coyne were Bryndis Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson. This collaborative team discussed the execution and implications of their project Nanoq: flat out and bluesome which documented a five-year survey of taxidermic polar bears in the UK.  Snæbjörnsdóttir presented a number of historical photographs that depicted the proliferation of polar bear trophy hunting in the 19th century. Those images paired with their photo documentation of existing UK taxidermic bears offered a visual reminder of “lessons not learned” and humanities tumultuous relationship with predators. Wilson added to this conversation by touching on concepts like the “exoticism of the North”. Their photography archives of Nanoq are included in Late Harvest and the Center for Art+Environment at the NMA.


The Saturday portion of the conference took on a variety of tones, but seemed to hinge on approaches to “Field Work” as a theme. With my background in graphic design, Fernanda Viégas and Martin Wattenberg’s presentation was the most memorable. Both Viégas and Wattenberg have made resounding contributions to data visualization including chat histories, baby names and the stock market. Together they founded Flowing Media and in 2012 collaborated on a visual wind map. The structure of their talk took the form of walking the audience through their creative problem solving as they moved from data to visuals. Through this process, and trial and error, they created a solution for mapping a visual for the wind. At the root of that “basic problem” was Viégas’ question of “What does the wind look like?”. The final site is based on real time measurements of surface wind across the US. Since the launching of the site the public have used it in discussions about hurricanes, wild fires and wind power. The accessibility of the imagery means putting public information into a form the common public can actually understand and apply to their lives.