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LEWISBURG, Pa. — China is a country of superlatives: One of the world's oldest civilizations, one of the world's largest in size and population, and soon, home to one of the world's largest engineering feats – the controversial Three Gorges Dam Project.
Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky chronicled the environmental impact of the dam and highlights them in the Samek Art Gallery exhibition, "Edward Burtynsky: The China Series," at Bucknell University Aug. 24 through Oct. 7.
The China Series includes 20 stunning, large-format (5 by 6 feet) photographs of contemporary Chinese industrialization. Subjects and themes include manufacturing, shipyards, urban renewal, and recycling, and a selection of photographs from Burtynsky's "Three Gorges Dam Project."
Environment vs. economy Begun in 1994 with a completion date of 2009, the dam is being built by 60,000 workers and has displaced more than a million residents. The controversy arises from the choice to replace polluting fossil fuels with a cleaner hydro-electric power source versus the environmental damage caused by flooding a series of coal mines that will release toxic materials.
"These images are meant as metaphors to the dilemma of our modern existence; they search for a dialogue between attraction and repulsion, seduction and fear," Burtynsky said of the exhibition's photographs. "We are drawn by desire — a chance at good living, yet we are consciously or unconsciously aware that the world is suffering for our success. Our dependence on nature to provide the materials for our consumption and our concern for the health of our planet sets us into an uneasy contradiction. For me, these images function as reflecting pools of our times."
Samek Art Gallery director Dan Mills said, "Over the past 25 years, Burtynsky has been an explorer of unfamiliar places where industrial activity has reshaped the surface of the land. His surveys of the human-made terrain of quarrying, mining, railcutting, recycling, oil refining, and shipbreaking remind us that these incursions into the Earth arise from perennial human needs and desires.
"With a disturbing and unexpected beauty, these photographs subvert our usual notions of the sublime in nature and lead us to new awareness of the landscape of our times," Mills said.
First venue for documentary The Samek is the first venue for this exhibition since the national release of the acclaimed documentary film by Jennifer Baichwal. The film, "Edward Burtynsky: Manufactured Landscapes," will be shown at the Campus Theatre in Lewisburg on Sept. 27, opening night of the 2007 Documentary Film Festival , making Lewisburg the first community to have the exhibition and film at the same time.
"We are delighted to be partnering with the Campus Theatre to offer our students and regional audience this first," said Cynthia Peltier, Samek operations manager.
An opening reception will be held at 5 p.m. Aug. 24 in the Gallery on the third floor of the Elaine Langone Center at Bucknell. The exhibition is curated by David Brown and organized by Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in Winston-Salem, N.C. For more information about the Burtynsky exhibition, visit Samek Art Gallery.
Recent Work by Women
A second exhibition, "Collection Focus I: Recent Work by Women," may be seen in the Project Room of the Samek Aug. 24 through Oct. 7
Curated by Dan Mills and organized by the Samek Art Gallery, "Collections Focus I" is the first in a series presenting work by women that have been acquired in the last five years.
According to Mills, many fine artworks have been added to the collection in recent years, and many by women.
"Historically, women have been an under-represented in this and many other public collections," Mills said. "This eclectic exhibition introduces some of the artists and their work to our student and regional audiences, and draws attention to Samek's efforts to strengthen this important — and growing — part of the collection." The artists include Louise Bourgeois, Phyllis Bramson, Cai Jin, Agnes Denes, Jill Levine, Ann Messner, Nanne Meyer, Alice Neel, Elizabeth Newman, Kiki Smith, Rachel Whiteread, and Noriko Yamamoto.
Louise Bourgeois, Untitled
Collection Focus series The Collection Focus series will periodically present collection strengths to the public. The Permanent Collection is a unique University resource. Comprising more than 5,000 works of art in virtually all media from BCE to the 21st century, the collection is an integral part of the intellectual and cultural life of Bucknell University and the region. Information and images of many works in the collection are viewable on the Samek website; go to Collections, then Database.
The Samek Art Gallery is located on the third floor of the Elaine Langone Center. Admission is free. Gallery hours are weekdays 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursdays 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.; weekends 1 to 5 p.m., and by appointment. The Gallery is accessible by elevator. For more information about the gallery, call 577-3792 or see http://www.bucknell.edu/SamekArtGallery/.
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