• RENO, Nevada
  • /
  • January 29, 2011

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Helen and Newton Harrison, Truckee-Yuba Rivers Divide. © 2010 Jeff Erickson.

The internationally-renowned ecological artists, Helen and Newton Harrison, have teamed with the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art to create new work for their ongoing endeavor the Force Majeure, a series of land-based artworks responding to the challenges of global change. Titled Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation, the current project is a continuation of the great-scale environmental remedies the Harrisons have proposed since 2004, including Peninsula Europe, 2007.

Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation seeks an adaptive response to the predicted temperature rise in the high grounds of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, located between California and Nevada. The rise - that may be as much as 5ºC/9ºF during the next century - is expected to generate both drought and flood in the mountains, and change the habitat of numerous species.


"We believe that a Sierra Nevada response in the 'now,' of the kind we propose, can forestall the great social and economic difficulties that the predicted rise in temperatures will cause, while at the same time generate a badly needed new botanically-based industry," state the Harrisons. "Essentially, we're arguing to design from a highly probable future backward to the immediately knowable present."

In collaboration with the Center for Art + Environment, the Harrisons will choose sites in each of the seventeen major watersheds within the Sierra Nevada and craft specific responses to each, ensuring that species replacement will be beneficial. Proposed responses range from passive monitoring to removal of invasive species. Some cases may require the assisted migration of certain species to insure biodiversity. or modifying the cultural landscape of the watersheds to support sustainable grazing and forestry while sequestering water. The Nature Conservancy has contributed the conceptual use of Independence Lake in California and its watershed for the initial stage of the project.

The first project exhibition, to premiere at Ronald Feldman Fine Arts in New York, February 10 through March 12, will include a 44-foot long floor photograph of the entire Sierra Nevada mountain range created by the Nevada-based Desert Research Institute (DRI) with drawing and markings made by the Harrisons and their assistants. "The intention of this rather large image is to give the viewer a feeling of flying over the range, as well as one of walking the range," stated the Harrisons. The image will have two drain basins accentuated, Independence Lake and the Truckee River watershed going east, and the adjacent Yuba River watershed flowing west.

The Harrisons and the DRI are also creating digital drawings of the seventeen watersheds, with notes on the restoration work already being done in each of them. A three-part digital animation of the Independence Lake drain basin will project possible consequences over decades of neglect, intervening to assist the growth of beneficial species, and designing a multi-layered cultural landscape. A second version of the map will be exhibited at the Nevada Museum of Art's Art + Environment Conference in September 2011, and new materials will be developed further for a larger Nevada Museum of Art exhibition in several years. All archive materials for Sierra Nevada: An Adaptation are being collected for the Museum's Center for Art + Environment Archive.


The Nevada Museum of Art is a museum of ideas. The only accredited art museum in the state, it is a private, non-profit organization supported by the generosity of its membership as well as by sponsorships and grants.  Through creative programming and scholarship, the Museum provides the opportunity for people to encounter, engage and enjoy a diversity of art experiences.  The Center for Art + Environment (CA+E) at the Nevada Museum of Art is an internationally recognized research center that supports the practice, study and awareness of creative interactions between people and their natural, built, and virtual environments.

Rachel Milon
Nevada Museum of Art

Nevada Museum of Art
160 W Liberty St
Reno, Nevada
About Nevada Museum of Art

The Nevada Museum of Art is the only accredited art museum in the state of Nevada. The Nevada Museum of Art is a museum of ideas. While building upon our founding collections and values, we cultivate meaningful art and societal experiences, and foster new knowledge in the visual arts by encouraging interdisciplinary investigation. The Nevada Museum of Art serves as a cultural and educational resource for everyone.

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