Noted photographer’s work explores the global preservation efforts of seed banks in the face of climate change and decreased biodiversity.
The Dayton Art Institute’s (DAI) latest Focus Exhibition, Archiving Eden: Dornith Doherty Photographs, explores these timely and important questions. The exhibition is currently on view at the museum through January 10, 2021.
This poignant photographic series considers the philosophical and ecological issues surrounding the role of science and human action in relation to gene banking. Catalyzed by the 2008 completion of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway, Dornith Doherty has traveled the world documenting seed banks and preservation efforts in the face of climate change and decreased agricultural diversity. Since initiating the Archiving Eden project in 2008, Doherty has visited 18 centers on five continents.
A multi-layered project, the imagery in Archiving Eden ranges in style from documentary to lyric compositions, with X-ray photographs, composite images and lenticular panels, all of which breathe life into seemingly static objects. The exhibition includes 22 stunning, large-scale photographs.
“These beautiful images demonstrate our intertwined relation with nature and how something as small as a seed can spark the imagination,” said DAI Kettering Curator of Photography and Special Projects Katherine Ryckman Siegwarth. “I hope guests note the relevancy of this ongoing, as the current pandemic has highlighted issues surrounding our supply chains and food access, as well as led to an increased interest in home gardening.”
Storing seeds is not a new concept and was integral to humanity’s transition to an agricultural lifestyle. Seed banks come in an array of sizes—personal, local, state, national and global. Their missions range from collecting native species, dedicated to variants of a specific genus, serving as back-ups to other vaults, or even those with Noah’s Ark-like ambition. This latter example partly describes the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, which inspired Archiving Eden.
Archiving Eden highlights a duality seemingly inherent to humanity: our fraught relation to Nature that has contributed to rapidly declining biodiversity, but also the incredible ability of people to rally together to safeguard our future. Within seed banks, Doherty sees, “a glowing, verdant, technological garden.”
Doherty is Distinguished Research Professor at the University of North Texas. She received a B.A. cum laude from Rice University and a M.F.A. in Photography from Yale University. A 2012 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, she has also received grants from the Fulbright Foundation, the Japan Foundation, the Indiana Arts Commission, the United States Department of the Interior and the Houston Center for Photography. Doherty’s work is exhibited widely and included in numerous collections worldwide.
Doherty’s photographic projects are rooted in the landscape tradition and analyze humanity’s complex relationship to nature with an interest in stewardship. Works from the Archiving Eden series are included in the recently published A World History of Photography (5th edition), by Naomi Rosenblum.
“This important topic is especially relevant in these uncertain times,” said DAI Director & CEO Michael R. Roediger. “It’s an honor to be able to bring Dornith Doherty’s works to Dayton, and I hope the community will take the opportunity to view these photographs. Your DAI is open and ready to safely welcome you back.”
To learn more about the exhibition, go to daytonartinstitute.org/archivingeden.
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