About Proximities

What are the proximities between art and environment? How might exploring the symmetries between art and science open up new ways of being and becoming in the world? How might different fields of knowledge work together to address the environmental perils that we are faced with here in the geologic Anthropocene?

These are just a few of the questions at the root of this Proximities blog, written by Maya L. Kapoor at the Institute of the Environment. Highlighting people and places at the UA and in Tucson where art and environment proximities are opening up and pushing the boundaries of what is possible, this blog also hopes to instigate further proximities and collaborations.

To read more about the groundwork of Proximities, please see the first post.

Recent Posts

A Harvest of Stories

October 4, 2016

Just 25 miles long, no more than eight miles across at its widest point, Grand Manan is a small place—but only if you stay on land. The Canadian island of Grand Manan sits just 13 miles east of the U.S.-Canada border in the Bay of Fundy, an incredibly biodiverse underwater canyon that is home to at least eight whale species.  Before refrigeration existed, Grand Manan was the herring fishery capital of the world, pulling in millions of tiny fish using a locally invented style of weir. Grand Manan islanders also hauled in many species of groundfish, including cod, haddock, and Pollock, that throve in the bay’s deep waters. These days, there’s a new harvest on Grand Manan: stories about place.

Dancing Place, Dancing Change

July 15, 2016

Against projected scenes of white glaciers collapsing into the sea, dance graduate student Magda Kaczmarska spun, reached, crouched, and curled, improvising to music composed in response to the intertwined realities of warming global temperatures, melting glaciers, and rising sea levels. UA dance instructor Erika Colombi accompanied Kaczmarska by reading aloud from the most recent assessment report from the International Panel on Climate Change. The duo’s embodied environmental performance riveted audience members at an Arts, Environment, and Humanities Network lunchtime event in December 2015.

6&6: Art and Science Collaborations in Action

March 28, 2016

It’s not unusual for working field biologists to seek out unique or sensitive places. It is unusual for those places to be art galleries. But that’s exactly what Ben Wilder, founding director of the Next Generation Sonoran Desert Researchers (N-Gen) was doing—via phone—when I stopped by his office at ENR2 on the University of Arizona campus recently. He was planning N-Gen’s first art show.

El Niño

February 12, 2016

Hello! After three and a half years of writing Proximities, School of Geography and Development PhD student Eric Magrane has turned this wonderful blog over to me in order to focus on his teaching and research responsibilities.  I’m excited about all of the names, topics, and ideas scrawled on my editorial calendar for the semester.

Fires of Change

December 21, 2015

An art-science exhibit currently up at the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA) includes work by 11 artists, each of whom addresses fire science and fire ecology in their contribution.

Finding Abbey, Environmental Writing, and Storying the Landscape: A Conversation on Art & Environment with Sean Prentiss and Erik Reece

October 22, 2015

As the seventh in an ongoing series of cross-posts with A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments, this Proximities features a conversation between environmental writers Sean Prentiss and Erik Reece. Prentiss will be at the University of Arizona reading along with poet Steve Coughlin on Tuesday, October 27, at the new ENR2 building at 5:30 p.m., and Reece will read for the UA Prose Series at the Poetry Center on Tuesday, November 17, at 7 p.m.

Three Exhibits

October 9, 2015

Tucson Museum of Art’s Arizona Biennial, closing on October 11, includes many works addressing environmental themes, and two other exhibits closing later this month---at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum's Ironwood Gallery and the Tucson Jewish Community Center Fine Art Gallery---also have UA and environmental connections.


Rafe Sagarin

September 15, 2015

In memory of Rafe Sagarin (1971–2015), who was killed by a truck while riding his bicycle near Biosphere 2 in May.

On multiple occasions, I remember Rafe Sagarin quoting the poet Robinson Jeffers.

“Humanity is the mould to break away from, the crust to break through,” he would recite, from Jeffers’ poem “Roan Stallion.”

Rafe moved seamlessly between different ways of knowing the world, and his wide-ranging intellect, knowledge, and curiosity radiated from all that he did. His thinking, while reflecting his training as a marine biologist, was outside of any narrow conception of art or science or disciplinary boundaries.

The Ecological Imagination: A Conversation on Art & Environment with Mitchell Thomashow, Ben Champion, and Paulina Jenney

April 29, 2015

As the sixth in an ongoing series of cross-posts with A Journal of the Built + Natural Environments, this Proximities features a conversation between Ben Champion, director of sustainability at the University of Arizona, and Mitchell Thomashow, former Unity College president and author of The Nine Elements of a Sustainable Campus. The conversation took place this spring, when Mitch met with the Art & Environment Network at Institute of the Environment. editor Simmons B. Buntin and I asked Paulina Jenney, a UA student in creative writing and environmental studies and a Flinn Scholar, to facilitate the conversation. Excerpts from that conversation follow. 


Art in the Tree-Ring Lab

April 10, 2015

Patterns and time are hinges to both art and science.

This is apparent in the new exhibit in the University of Arizona’s Bryant Bannister Tree-Ring Building, “Marking Time to a Changing Climate,” which features work by UA’s Ellen McMahon, Thomas Saffle, Kejun Li, and Jesse Chehak.

After a quick look at Li’s prints, you might think they are images of tree rings, ones that note time in terms of decades or centuries, reflecting patterns of growth marked by fire scars and droughts. In actuality, Li’s pieces were made by dragging a credit card across a piece of glass.