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April 01, 2005

Landmark Wildlife Photography Exhibit Coming to Seattle

Arctic National Wildlife Refuge:
Seasons of Life and Land
June 25 – Dec. 31, 2005

The exhibit contains forty-nine photographs by Banerjee, documenting for the first time in history the ecological diversity and Native cultures of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in all four seasons of the year.

The 19.5-million-acre Arctic National Wildlife Refuge contains the complete arctic and sub-arctic ecological zones from coastal tundra to majestic mountains to taiga and boreal forest, making it one of the last untouched arctic ecosystems in the world.

For two years beginning in March 2001, Banerjee traveled some 4,000 miles on foot, raft, kayak, snowmobile, and bush planes, visually recording this extraordinary area. He survived blizzards with negative-40 degree temperatures to photograph and document the yearly cycles of the arctic animals, plants, birds, water, and indigenous peoples—the Inupiat Eskimos and Gwich’in Athabascan Indians of this remote land.

These photographs do not romanticize the landscape. In his own words the artist states, “Employing simple compositions, mostly subdued light of cloudy days, and a meditative process of observation, I wanted to portray the duality of grandness and simplicity. My study is a representation of fragility and vulnerability of grand landscapes.” The New York Times senior art critic Roberta Smith called these images “stunningly beautiful.” Ingrid Sischy, editor-in-chief of Interview and former photography critic of the New Yorker wrote, “Banerjee’s landscapes seem epic.” New York-based art critic Hilarie M. Sheets wrote in ARTnews that Banerjee’s photographs are “evocative of paintings by Antoni Tapies,” a major expressionist painter of the twentieth century. Banerjee’s interpretation of this wilderness focuses on the mutually dependent relationships between the area’s land, animals, water, and Native people. The Refuge is one of the largest preservation areas in the world, containing the greatest diversity of plant and animal life in the circumpolar north. It contains 36 species of land mammals, nine species of marine mammals, 36 species of fish among its 20 rivers and numerous lakes, and 180 species of birds that congregate in the short seasons of spring, summer, and fall from six continents.

Banerjee’s arctic project was sponsored by the Blue Earth Alliance, a Seattle-based non-profit organization and the extensive educational outreach program was sponsored by The Mountaineers Books in Seattle with a generous grant from the Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe. While the exhibit is on display, the Burke Museum will be collaborating with a growing list of regional environmental groups to provide related programming and educational opportunities for the public. Among these groups are the local chapters of The Mountaineers, Blue Earth Alliance, The Wilderness Society, and Seattle Audubon Society.*

The exhibit is accompanied by the book, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land. In the publication’s foreword, former President Jimmy Carter comments: “It will be a grand triumph for America if we can preserve the Arctic Refuge in its pure, untrammeled state. To leave this extraordinary land alone would be the greatest gift we could pass on to future generations.” The book, published by The Mountaineers in 2003, will be available for sale at the museum’s shop.

Born in Berhampore, a town near Calcutta, India in 1967, Banerjee received his bachelor’s degree in engineering in 1989 before moving to the United States. He holds masters degrees in physics and computer sciences from New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He worked as a scientist for six years before switching careers to become an artist. Today, he makes his home in Seattle, Washington and New York City.

The exhibit is particularly timely, arriving in the midst of the ongoing debate over opening about 1.5 million acres of the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. During its debates over the 2006 budget, the U.S. House of Representatives stated that drilling in the Arctic should not be included in the legislation. But on March 16, 2005, in a 51-49 vote, the U.S. Senate voted to include drilling in its version of the bill. Congress will have to settle these two positions as the budget process progresses.

Accompanying Exhibit on Arctic Native Art
The photographic exhibit is complemented by Life Abounds: Arctic Native Wildlife Art—an exhibit featuring traditional and contemporary wildlife art from the Burke Museum’s renowned Native American art collection and augmented by pieces from a private collection. The art depicts arctic animals from the perspective of the Native people who have known, lived with, and depended upon these animals for thousands of years. Included are traditional masks and fetishes, carvings in stone, ivory, and bone, and colorful contemporary prints primarily from the Yu'pik, Inupiaq, and Inuit people.

Related Events:

Sat. & Sun., June 25, 26 10 am – 4 pm
Family Weekend
– Celebrate the opening of the exhibit with two days of activity offered for families, including Gwich’in storytelling, arctic art and environmental science activities, and informational tables by local environmental groups.

Free First Thursdays:
Featuring thematic evening events through the run of the exhibit. Admission is free and the museum is open until 8 pm on July 7, Aug. 4, Sept. 1, Oct. 6, Nov. 3, and Dec. 1.

July—Animals of the Arctic
Thurs., July 7: Free First Thursday showing of the film, “Being Caribou.” Presented by Canadian Studies Center, University of Washington, Jackson School of International Studies

August—Native Cultures of the Arctic
Thurs., Aug. 4: Free First Thursday: UW Press presents a new book series on culture and the environment, featuring a reading by author Nancy Turner from her new book Earth's Blanket: Traditional Teachings for Sustainable Living
Sat., Aug. 27: Native Cultures—a family day with Native art performances and hands-on art activities, including a dedication of two new Tlingit houseposts in the museum’s Pacific Voices gallery
Workshop for middle and high school teachers (date to be announced)

September—Birds (The Arctic Migration Connection)
Thurs., Sept. 1: Free First Thursday event -- presentation by local ornithologist
Sun., Sept. 5: Life Abounds exhibit closes
Half-price admission all month for members of Burke “partner” organizations*

Children’s Programs (ongoing):
A one-hour hands-on program on arctic arts, cultures, and environment will be offered for children’s groups throughout summer 2005 and for school groups through fall 2005. Call 206-543-5591 for times and to make reservations.

More thematic programs are to be scheduled through December 2005, including related programs on bird migrations, global warming, climate change, and arctic landscapes—check the Burke website for more details and regular updates.

*For a complete list of Burke “partner” organizations, go to www.burkemuseum.org. Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land is a photographic exhibit by Subhankar Banerjee, designed and produced by the California Academy of Sciences, San Francisco, California. The exhibit is sponsored by The Boeing Company, Hugh and Jane Ferguson Foundation, The Lucky Seven Foundation, and Microsoft Corporation, with additional support from numerous organizations and community partners.
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The Burke Museum is located at the corner of NE 45th St and 17th Ave NE, on the University of Washington campus. Hours are 10 am to 5 pm daily, and until 8 pm Thursday. Admission is $8 general, $6.50 senior, $5 student/ youth. Admission is free to children 4 and under, Burke members, UW students, faculty, and staff. Admission is free to the public on the first Thursday of each month. Call 206-543-5590 or visit www.burkemuseum,org.

(206) 543-9762; FAX (206) 616-1274