Donald & Era Farnsworth
Ninepipes (with molecules), 2008
mixed media on panel
13.5 x 68 in.

Donald and Era Farnsworth’s tapestry and mixed-media works often use classical forms as a vehicle to address contemporary issues of climate change and conservation: in their Ninepipes landscape series, a tension between the different forms of representation in the image’s foreground and background serves to draw attention to the multiple ways in which we understand our environment. The hazy landscape depicted in the background of Ninepipes is a sacred American Indian site in Montana. By bringing brightly colored symbols for various molecular compounds to the surface of their naturalistic imagery, the Farnsworths create bifold layers of meaning.

Rupert Garcia noted during a studio visit that the Farnsworths’ landscapes simulate a nostalgia associated with traditional landscape painting, evoking “the good old days” when things were “purer.” The artists’ reference to this visual tradition is given both a critical and playful dimension by the two-dimensional symbols in the foreground, which suggest the wonder and whimsy of science and the more serious implications of changes in our ecosystem.