Critical Messages 

Philip Govedare, Flood, oil on canvas, 59" x 55", 2009

Boise Art Museum

Philip Govedare, Flood, oil on canvas, 59" x 55", 2009

Many things have been said about the environment. Talk of climate change, threats posed to ecosystems by water contamination, the increasing rates of asthma and heart disease from air pollution, soil quality degradation and more. There have even been questions raised about shipping giant oil rigs down winding, narrow rural highways during winter weather.

Sometimes it seems that there are so many discussions that people are drowning in them—meaning precious little information sinks in and makes a difference.

So maybe it's time to try something different: something with fewer words. And no, not Twitter.

"Contemporary Northwest Artists on the Environment," the new exhibition opening at Boise Art Museum, showcases how regional artists are responding to environmental issues in their work. Those issues include growth management, waste management (on both land and sea), mass production/consumption, transportation, preservation of wilderness and wetlands, biodiversity, climate change and energy.

William Dietrich, a Pulitzer Prize-winning science reporter for the Seattle Times who teaches environmental journalism at Western Washington University, wrote the words that accompany the exhibit.

"Technological cleverness has outrun stewardship wisdom," Dietrich told in an interview about the exhibition. "And we look to artists to help us make sense of our handiwork and folly as they contemplate the most dramatic ecological change the planet has experienced since the end of the last Ice Age."

Pieces in the exhibit range from paintings of oil slicks and vultures with lobster beaks to a cedar stump made entirely from recycled cardboard.

The exhibit was organized and first shown at Western Washington University. It will be on display at BAM beginning Saturday, Dec. 18, and running through April 10, 2011.

And for those worried about the old adage that a picture is worth a thousand words, don't fret. A 1997 study from Cambridge University found they're actually worth about 84.1. It may not be Twitter-length but it is certainly concise.

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