Justin Brice Guariglia’s images of the havoc that humans wreak on their most precious environments were already timely and troubling.
Then came the hurricane.
"Earth Works: Mapping the Anthropocene," Guariglia's exhibition at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Fla., was shuttered because of the storm named Irma.
While West Palm Beach experienced torrential rains and some injury to the city’s infrastructure, it evaded the worst of the damage. The exhibition survived, too, and reopened. Given the show’s subject matter, which includes real-life images of melting glaciers and mine-stripped lands, the closure casts an ironic shadow on Guariglia’s work.
Guariglia is familiar with climate change — so familiar that he sports a tattoo of Earth's skyrocketing temperatures. His art incorporates images he took on NASA flights that surveyed the ways melting glaciers in Greenland affect sea level rise.
The massive multimedia pieces in the Norton show combine photography from those and other trips with materials including aluminum and gold leaf. They’re mesmerizing, even beautiful — until you remember that they show glaciers melting at an alarming rate.
Last year, a group of geoscientists suggested that we're living in the Anthropocene, a new epoch defined by pollution, environmental destruction and climate change caused by people. Guariglia's art grapples with the emerging consequences of human activity, his message somehow even more urgent than if the storm had never come.
The free exhibition is at the Norton through January. Check the museum's website for information on an upcoming talk by the artist and other events.