From the Artist’s Perspective: Connected Lands. Connected People.

The Climate Science Alliance, in partnership with the Connecting Wildlands & Communities (CWC) Team at San Diego State University, was excited to host Kim Reasor as our 2020 Climate Art Fellow. Kim has worked with the team since June of last year to visualize the major take homes of this project for a public audience. In this final edition of “From the Artist’s Perspective,” witness the unveiling of the final pieces and hear from Kim on her reflections on the artistic process.



The Climate Science Alliance, in partnership with the Connecting Wildlands & Communities (CWC) Team at San Diego State University, was excited to host Kim Reasor as our 2020 Climate Art Fellow. Kim has worked with the team since June of last year to visualize the major take homes of this project for a public audience. In this final edition of “From the Artist’s Perspective,” witness the unveiling of the final pieces and hear from Kim on her reflections on the artistic process.

The Journey to Connecting Wildlands and Communities


When I was awarded the CSA Climate Art Fellowship last June, it could not have come at a better time for me creatively. I was known for my oil paintings of urban and industrial landscapes, and had recently been expanding my horizons to include science-informed art. I had taken a few courses in topics such as Geospatial Information Systems (GIS), data visualization, and environmental hydrology. I had done a couple of collaborative art-science projects, involving snow microbiology in the Finnish Arctic and the loss of sea ice in Utqiagvik, Alaska. The idea of doing art that would communicate ecological issues in my home, San Diego County (as well as other parts of Southern California), in collaboration with the Climate Science Alliance, was a dream come true.


Winner Takes All, ©Kim Reasor 2020 oil on canvas, 36” x 48”


Making art has always been a big part of who I am. I grew up in Colorado and spent a decent amount of time in the mountains. After moving to San Diego in 2003, I began a series of industrial landscape paintings that grappled with my unease over the destruction of nature and our consumer-oriented culture. I started to think about how to express the urban/nature conflict more directly in my art.


In 2016, I accompanied my husband on his sabbatical to Finland. It turned out to be a sabbatical for me as well, as I got to live in a small village surrounded by trees and lakes and was able to try my hand at science-informed art for the first time, courtesy of an art residency at the Kilpisjärvi Biological Station in Sápmi. This collaboration served as a bootcamp for both of us, as we struggled to communicate about my husband’s science and how to depict it in my art. In the end, after a lot of back-and-forth, we arrived at a visual expression of his data that we were both happy with. When we returned to San Diego, I enrolled in the courses mentioned above. The cartography and data visualization courses were especially helpful for me. The tricky part would be how to go about incorporating this type of information into my art, specifically paintings.



Then, in October 2018, the IPCC report on climate change came out and changed everything. Only twelve years left to stop it from becoming unimaginably bad. Climate change was not a horrible but comfortably vague threat that was still decades off. It was here—the Anthropocene.


In October 2019 I did some art-science outreach in Utqiagvik, Alaska as part of a National Science Foundation grant and collaborated on a poster of the vanishing Arctic sea ice. I produced the poster with the graph of sea ice decline and utilized climate warming stripes to depict the increase in air temperatures. The lower part of the graph was embellished with art by 100 fifth graders, who depicted things they love about their home, which is gravely at risk from climate change.




Sea ice poster, ©2019 Kååre Sikuaq Erickson, David Lipson, Kim Reasor with the participation of the fifth graders at Fred Ipalook Elementary School, Utqiagvik, Alaska.

48” x 96” ink on paper; mixed media





Back home in San Diego, I toyed with various ideas for expressing the conflict between humans and nature in Southern California. When I heard about the Summer Art Fellowship offered by the Climate Science Alliance, it felt like everything I had done in the past few years had led me to this point. I was excited to apply and see what came of it.


Connected Lands. Connected People.


Initially, I wanted to do a fairly deep dive into the data and come up with an artistic way of expressing it. After discussions with the Connecting Wildlands and Communities team, we decided to prioritize work that would reach out to viewers on a more emotional level, and simply make them aware of these concepts: de-fragmenting habitat, the importance of wildlands for healthy urban environments, and climate refugia. Additionally, I was asked by the group to come up with something that dealt with wildfires, as they had observed that fire had sadly been the one climate change consequence everyone had observed and experienced on the most personal level. I planned one piece that would deal with the issue of invasive species in Wildlands, and how that made fires worse. But after speaking with Connor Magee, the Climate Science Alliance’s Research and Data Applications Manager, about traditional agricultural practices, I felt that it was important to bring this perspective into the piece about fire, so I wound up making two pieces on this topic - Fire Facets I and II.


Fire Facets I and II. ©Kim Reasor 2020


Fire Facets I: 12” diameter on partially burned wood panel, acrylic, native plants (scrub oak Quercus berberidfolia, California buckwheat Eriogonum fasciculatum, laurel sumac Malosma laurina, chamise Adenostema fasciculatum), invasive plants (red brome Bromus madritensis ssp. rubens)


Fire Facets II: 12” diameter on wood panel, Oil, acrylic, gel medium, metal leaf, acorns


I made other pieces for my fellowship project as well. A diptych, Bio-Unity/ Bio-Fragmentation, which dealt with issues of habitat fragmentation and the wildland-urban interface in Southern California.


Bio-Fragmentation/Bio Unity ©Kim Reasor 2020 diptych, each panel 36” x 24”, acrylic and oil on panel


This diptych explores a dystopian and utopian future in regards to wildlands connectivity. The outcomes are somewhat exaggerated in order to make my point. The image on the left, Bio-Fragmentation, shows an urban area with fragmented pieces of nature. The lack of greenery increases the urban heat island effect. The young boy can be seen as thirsty from the heat and perhaps suffering from a nature deficit, what the Finns call “forest sickness” (metsän ikävä). After speaking with Will Madrigal, Climate Science Alliance’s Tribal Capacities and Partnerships Program Manager, I changed a ghostly mountain lion on the lower left panel to a coyote. At the top, climate warming stripes reflect rising air temperatures. In addition, there are fragments of animals (gnatcatcher, deer) which represent the fragmentation of habitat.


The image on the right, Bio-Unity, imagines abundant and connected wildlands supporting healthy and diverse populations of birds, mammals, pollinators, and amphibians. People can be seen on a hike but they are a small presence, enjoying but not damaging. The wild areas at the top and the bottom are strengthened by being connected by my fanciful “bio-ways” (a transportation corridor for wildlife, not cars). The urban area benefits from the healthier wildlands. Perhaps the heat island effect has been reduced. And if I am imagining a future where wildlands are connected and restored, then perhaps something will be done about runaway climate change and thus I’ve made the climate warming stripes more of a suggestion. At the top of the painting a mountain lion oversees the lush natural environment.



The final piece I created, Refuge, a 36” square cabinet with a recessed opening in the center which depicted gradations of climate refugia as various landscapes which overlapped in a Venn diagram, culminating in a “super refugia” featuring a riparian oak woodland in the center.


Refuge in particular turned out to be a very iterative project. It had its origins in a bell curve graph from a CWC presentation on the concept of climate refugia. After a Zoom meeting in which I saw more of Drs. Isabel Rojas-Viada and Megan Jennings’ research on climate refugia, I decided to make it a Venn diagram. There was a lot of back-and-forth between me and the team as I sought to visualize their work in a way that would fit into a Venn diagram, and they sought to understand what I was getting and not getting in a general way about their project. At first, my approach was more in tune with the big picture. Then I tried to get super-literal with the logic and missed the boat almost completely, and at last I wound up circling back to an approach that suggested the gradations of climate refugia without being completely literal about it.


The Evolution of Refuge



It was such a pleasure to work on this project; I greatly enjoyed collaborating with everyone!

- Kim Reasor

2020 Climate Art Fellow


To see the Kim Reasor’s final pieces and learn more about the 2020 Climate Art Fellowship, please visit us at: www.climatesciencealliance.org/2020-climate-art-fellow


A Note of Gratitude


The Climate Science Alliance and the Connecting Wildlands and Communities team is grateful to Kim Reasor for her time, dedication, and vision through the 2020 Climate Art Fellowship. We firmly believe that art is a powerful medium to transcend boundaries, connect our communities to this work, and impart its critical importance. Artists help us see the world both as it is and as it could be, and for that we owe them a great deal of gratitude. Thank you Kim for helping us envision the strength of a connected community, both natural and human, in adapting to the challenges of our changing climate.

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