Desirée Patterson: Anomaly
Desirée Patterson, Anomaly iii, photography, diptych.

Desirée Patterson: Anomaly

Ferry Building Gallery, West Vancouver, BC - Aug 4 - 27

by Michael Turner

Formerly known as “climate change” (before that, “global warming”), the planet’s climate crisis is sometimes expressed in analogies so melodramatic as to defy comprehension. Who can forget French president Emmanuel Macron’s August 2019 tweet that “the Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces [sic] 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire”? Although Macron’s stat was credibly refuted, it was a lesser-shared warning of melting Himalayan glaciers threatening the Yangtze, Ganges, Indus and Mekong Rivers (which more than one billion people depend upon) that moved artist Desirée Patterson to travel there.

After arriving in Nepal in 2018, Patterson embarked on a 12-day trek to the Mount Everest base camp, photographing the adjacent glaciers and the mountains that cradle them. From the trip, described in gallery press materials as “an unforgettable experience that forever transformed her own inner landscape,” Patterson created Anomaly (2020), a photo-based series that combines her black-and-white pictures with dual layers of colour. Here, glaciers are presented in asymmetrical diptychs or in thirds, with one-third tinted a hot red to represent glacial loss in the coming century, the remaining two-thirds a cooler blue.

Patterson’s choice of title is a canny decision – one that speaks to an oft-heard refrain from climate crisis deniers that our weather, like capitalism, has always been subject to anomalies that, like the free markets these same people favour, correct themselves and level out over time. To counter that thinking, Patterson’s work draws on the colour bar climate graphs developed by Professor Ed Hawkins of the National Centre for Atmospheric Science at the University of Reading to denote historical global warming trends, a graphic system that is, to Patterson’s mind, entirely comprehensible.

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