Ridley Tree Museum exhibit explores relationship between humans and nature
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The Ridley Tree Museum’s newest exhibition, “Watershed,” features works from several photographers, including both local artists and national artists that seek to portray the same message. The exhibition is split into several themes: “SB Watershed,” “Objective,” “Atmosphere,” “Exposure,” and “Narrative.” This exhibition deviates from the idealized, pristine landscape photographs of the nineteenth century and asks for the viewer to focus on the frail relationship of nature and humankind.
As the viewer steps in, they are immediately faced with the reality of the mudslides that happened in Santa Barbara only one year prior to the exhibition. This front area, titled “SB Watershed,” features artists Macduff Everton, Ines Labunski Roberts, Nell Campbell, William Dewey, and Andy Goldsworthy. These specific photographs “focus on Santa Barbara County’s relationships to water, drought, fire, and floods.” The works highlighted here range from photos capturing the effects of the 2018 Montecito mudslide to the state of the agricultural issues in the state of California. The viewer is reminded of the beauty that water brings with agricultural images, but also the reality of the devastation that it can bring because of the current shortage of water. The most outstanding piece is the series of photographs called “Footprints of First Responders, 2018.” Again, this piece brings attention to the relationship between nature and humankind, but reminds us to put on a new lens of appreciation and admiration for these first responders. These photographs leave the viewer to recognize the surrealness of the situation and reminds us to see the humanity behind these footprints.
Continuing to the main gallery space, there are several other photographers that aim to represent the effects of humankind on nature. These range from larger, atmospheric photographs to uncanny photographs that “quiet our senses.” The photographs “Invisible City” and “Running Fence,” both by Lisa M. Robinson, are images that take the time to observe the impacts of snow and the deadening effects that it can have on a once lively landscape. On the other side of the spectrum, William K. Greiner portrays the “TV in Bayou, 1993” where he captures an eerie half-submerged television set in the bayou, representing that although we may not be physically present, our objects that represent us still live on in this place. This photograph speaks numbers to the relationship between nature and humankind, because although it may not be directly doing any damage, it does not pose any positive benefits to the environment, either.
Furthermore, this exhibition implies several messages that are important in this day and age, as well as in the community of Santa Barbara. By having a section devoted to the local community, it reminds us that these events happened here, but do not define Santa Barbara as a city. While also having works on a national scale, this exhibition brings to light the relationship between humankind and nature, keeping us aware of our impact on the environment. “Watershed” will be available for viewing in the Ridley Tree Museum until March 23.