In 2017, I was awarded a grant from the City of Houston to make two outdoor installations. These installations are giant blocks of ice that melt to reveal a map showing likely sea-level rise in Galveston in the year 2517, according to science. The goal is to create a thought-provoking and beautiful installation that will be seen by a diverse group of people who might otherwise not be exposed to fine art. The first installation opened October 21, 2017 in Art Alley located within the Sawyer Yards creative campus and can be visited over the course of the next year. The project is funded in part by the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.
I am so excited that people interacted with my sculpture at the opening. They caressed it, climbed on it, smelled it, licked it, drank the ice-water that was running off of it, and even ate the ice! Now that the ice is gone, the basin of water is at waist-height for a toddler. It is an irresistible temptation. Kids are adding rocks and dirt into the basin of water, and the action of the wind and the waves is transforming the dirt into beautiful patterns. The work went from subtractive to additive sculpture. Galveston is immersed under yet another layer. Here’s a picture taken yesterday:
Watch a giant block of ice melt to reveal the effects of sea-level rise in Galveston in the year 2517. The installation is on view at Art Alley and will be up for a year. Art Alley is behind The Silos, 1502 Sawyer St., Houston, TX. The project is funded in part by the City of Houston through Houston Arts Alliance.
This video is taken on the second day, in the morning during a thunderstorm.
Ice makes beautiful sounds as it melts. Drips, crackles, and running water are manifestations of the ongoing transformation, but also a means to contemplation and meditation. Turn up the volume to hear this one.
Ice invites a viewer to engage with all the senses, even smell. The little girl pictured here had never seen this much ice. She loved its smooth texture and the chill.
A group of U of H sculpture students hung out for hours after the opening in a circle around the sculpture, caressing the surface. We called it a “Houston campfire” as we enjoyed the coolness of the ice in the tropical Houston heat.
The map of Galveston that I made for this project represents a visualization of future sea-level rise, representing a centrist perspective of mainstream climate science under a moderate path of CO2 emissions. To make the map, I relied on a survey of the science as provided in the book “Deep Future” by paleoclimatologist and environmental historian Curt Stager published in 2011. In his “best case” scenario (a moderate path of CO2 emissions), he suggests that we could see an approximate sea-level rise of 20 to 23 feet sometime over the next 300 to 3000 years or so.
Here are his assumptions:
- Stager describes a “hypothetical moderate path” of carbon reduction in which governments act collectively to begin reducing carbon emissions now, with peak carbon emissions occurring in 2050 and diminishing to zero emissions in 2200. He calls this the most realistic “best case.” In this scenario, we switch to non-fossil fuels as soon as possible, but still end up adding 700 gigatons (Gton: 1 billion metric tons) of CO2 to the atmosphere in addition to the 300 Gtons we have added since the industrial revolution.
- He shares that the resulting peak atmospheric CO2 concentrations would occur between 2100 to 2200, with a thermal maximum occurring in 2200 to 2300. In this scenario, peak atmospheric conditions of CO2 are likely to rise from today’s concentrations of 387 parts per million (ppm) to between 550 to 600 ppm. Temperatures would rise by 3 to 7 degrees F.
- The sea level rise of 20 to 23 feet assumes that Greenland loses about half of its ice as does much of the West Antarctic ice sheet, and the huge East Atlantic ice sheet remains mostly intact.
- From a geohistorical perspective, the Eemian interglacial (130,000 years ago) temperatures were 2 to 5 degrees warmer than today and sea-levels were approximately 20 to 23 feet higher.
The timing of the rise is deeply uncertain, but for this visualization I have chosen a horizon of 500 years.
The base is made of pressure treated wood, resin, and LED lights. The lights will be solar powered.