Magda Biernat Captures a Planet in Decay From the Antarctic to the Arctic Circle
While the documentation of nature may have once appealed to artists for its invocation of the sublime, in our particular moment images focused on the environment can take on darker, more sinister connotations. With sea levels rising and the human impact on the earth a certain and terrifying matter, chronicling the natural world as an artist has taken on a sense of dire political import.
Magda Biernat’s latest series, “Adrift,” finds within that urgent framework a sense of beauty; her work invites a gentle, if profound, comparison between changing landscapes and man-made structures. The series, which was created during a recent year-long trip the photographer took from the Antarctic to the Arctic Circle, finds structural similarities in icebergs and Inuit hunting huts, with their jagged lines and muted, icy tones setting stark silhouettes against the wind-swept north.
The focus on sharp lines and the images’ sense of solidity are the result, in part, of Biernat’s expertise as a photographer of a very different sort of buildings. “Time and change work inevitable degradation on all things” says the Poland-born Biernat. “As an architectural photographer, I’ve always been fascinated by structures in different states of decay.” The artist has, since 2007, taken periodic breaks from her career in New York to travel across the globe and document her findings. Her carefully composed images have been featured in a monthly series on the New Yorker’s website and have won her numerous grants and awards.
“The hunting cabins of the Inupiat are mirrors of the lone ice mountains in the south,” says the artist, “singular polar structures under pressure from changing ecosystems; silent and static witnesses to change.” Eerie and meticulously composed, her images in turn bear witness to the changes being wrought in far-flung locales by the consumptive patterns of our lives to the south. Her work joins that of other naturally influenced, ecologically minded artists represented by the gallery, including Jeff Brouw’s missives from America’s forgotten car culture, Chris Jordan’s abstracted images of scrap yards, and Karen Halvertson’s documentation of American water systems.