In I love you don’t leave me, a series encompassing photography, installation, and performance art, artist Patricia Carr Morgan extolls the heroic splendor of glaciers — and exposes their vulnerability. Ten percent of land area on Earth is covered by glacial ice, which stores around 69% of the world’s fresh water, but these majestic landforms are melting at an alarming rate. An estimated 95% of the oldest and thickest ice in the Arctic is already gone, and more than a third of the world’s remaining glaciers will melt before 2100.
Morgan’s sweeping, panoramic captures are both an elegy and a celebration, portraying glaciers in their fleeting grandeur. Her earliest images, taken over ten years ago, were a “happy accident”; she was on a trip to Antarctica accompanying her husband, who is an avid bird watcher, when she first came across the massive ice forms.
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“After crossing the Southern Ocean, I was quickly overwhelmed by the scale of unending whiteness. It was intimidating and dangerous, but it was also the most sublime piece of earth I had ever seen,” Morgan told Hyperallergic. “I was in love.”
In that euphoric moment, as she reveled in the seemingly unshakeable strength of the ice masses, Morgan caught a visceral glimpse of their fragility.
“I saw the glacier’s crevasses crack, heard them crash into the sea, felt the water swell, and, with only a whisper, watched as they floated away and disappeared into the warming sea,” she said. “‘I love you don’t leave me’ is a plea of mourning.”
Morgan printed the photographs of the glaciers and began manipulating them in different ways, aiming to highlight their ephemerality without losing sight of their elegance. In one body of work within the series, titled Altered States (2008-2018), the artist printed the photographs and defaced the two-dimensional images by applying carbon-based pigments and coal particles to their surface.
“Some have suffered the abuse and passage of time passed on through expired film,” she told Hyperallergic. “Here, the glacier is almost gone.”
Glaciers around the globe have been melting rapidly since the 1900s, primarily due to human activity. The burning of fossil fuels produces greenhouse gas emissions that increase the temperature of the atmosphere. As the glaciers dwindle, they calve off into the sea, contributing to rising water levels. Glacial disappearance has disastrous consequences on wildlife and human life, leaving many species without a home and disturbing the balance of Earth’s ecosystem.
If emissions continue unchecked, the Arctic could be ice-free in the summer as soon as 2040, scientists project. With I love you don’t leave me, Morgan hopes to increase awareness of glacier retreat and illustrate “the enormity of our loss.”
“I’m sharing my love and sorrow in hopes of encouraging others to accept positive change and take action,” Morgan says.
A Photographer Captures the Majesty of Glaciers, and Their Tragic Disappearance is from Hyperallergic, a forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking about art in the world today.