The newly revamped Queens Museum has made a point of curating thought-provoking pieces by artists from around the world, and its latest exhibit, “Raising the Temperature,” has proven to be eye-catching, frightening and beautiful without the preachy undertones many other climate change exhibits possess.
The museum’s new curator, Luchia Meihua Lee, has done a wonderful job collecting pieces from nine artists. She has split the exhibit into two trajectories in order to better organize discussion.
The first strand is concerned with technological changes in our society that reinforce behaviors contributing to the “environmental crisis.”
Artists include Hai Zhang, a former architect whose latest collection, “Don’t follow me, I’m lost,” features photos that focus on the urbanization of China.
The shots are striking and effectively demonstrate the stark differences between the modern buildings that have built up much of China’s skyline and the plots filled with trash, barren land and shacks.
The second strand is less rigid than Zhang’s work and takes a more romantic approach to the environment and the role humans play in climate change.
Long Island City resident Marlene Tseng Yu’s “Forest Fire” and “Black + White — Cracking Ice” are beautiful triptychs that demonstrate the evolution of natural forest fires and glaciers breaking apart. They are appropriately chaotic, especially “Forest Fire,” and Yu’s paint strokes show movement in all the right places.
Lee seemed deeply devoted to putting together an exhibit that not only informs but also moves.
“In art and life, no one is external to the social and cultural framework in which we live,” she wrote. “Each of us has assisted in Earth’s degeneration.
“This is the result of decades of commitment to the priority of material value and economic centralization, to the exclusion of artistic expression, intellectual culture change or sustainability.”
Lee was actively involved throughout the entire process and wanted to be sure that each artist was informed and had an opinion on the way the environment has changed.
She wanted pieces that would inform people of the dire circumstances our world is in without turning the exhibit into a soapbox for artists to stand upon and point a finger of blame.
A standout in “Raising the Temperature” — though all the pieces are exceptional — is Miya Ando’s “Obon.”
The indoor installation was inspired by a Japanese tradition in which lanterns are placed on water to honor the dead.
Ando hand-painted 100 Bodhi leaves with nontoxic resin and phosphorescence and scattered them atop a clear, acrylic box containing water.
The phosphorescent coat charges during the day and then causes the leaves to emit a soft, blue glow at night.
“The medium becomes both a contradiction and juxtapostion for expressing notions of evanescence, including ideas such as the transitory and ephemeral nature of all things, quietude and the underlying impermanence of everything,” Ando said of her work.
Visitors are allowed to take a leaf home as a souvenir.
Pink leaves were also scattered along the Hudson River in the Queens Museum’s famous New York City Panorama creating a beautiful trail of light.
Unfortunately, “Raising the Temperature” has a surprisingly short run for a museum exhibit, on display for only a month before it will be replaced with another body of work.
However, the limited engagement is slightly reminiscent of the environmental changes the exhibit so powerfully highlights.
In a world that is constantly changing, it is appropriate for “Raising the Temperature” to be as fleeting as the landscape.