Holt Visiting Scholar, Kim Anno, poses for a portrait with her exhibit in the Coulter Gallery at the McMurtry Building at Stanford University on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022, in Stanford, Calif. (Photo by Jim Gensheimer)

Kim Anno: Finding Loss and Hope in the Midst of the Anthropocene

A Baroque mirror hung loosely in the wall inside the white canvas, reflecting the hazy vision from archives of natural science. Perhaps, it is a portal that invites us to untangle the narratives of a dissolving landscape of nature in flux, amidst transition due to the changing planet.

As you walk through the vast Coulter Gallery space, abstract collages of flora and fauna fill the room. Drawing directly from the history of scientific illustration methods that records the natural world through the limited anthropocentric lens, from disrupted scans of 18-19th century steel engravings of taxonomies and landscapes to the sober microscopic essence of butterfly wings, the exhibition leaves us to wonder where the tyranny of the picturesque begins and ends.

White light flickers on the screen as the incantations of canonical texts reverberates from the center of the gallery. In grappling with the Anthropocene and the social construction leading up to where we are today, the exhibition presents a large-scale video installation that is akin to a crumbling proscenium. Anno has made a black and white animation in collaboration with artist Charles Woodman that depicts a floating abstraction set to an adaption of Dante’s Canto one from Purgatorio. Through taking out Dante’s biblical context, Anno found the environmental text that lay embedded within; one that traces back to one of many roots in which wilderness emerges as a foreign, treasured construct in the Western consciousness. Anno has long been concerned with rearranging iconic Western texts to democratize and reconfigure inclusive visions from texts that once divided.

This is Spectacle of Nature, a solo exhibition by the 2022-2023 Holt Visiting Scholar and interdisciplinary artist Kim Anno curated by Gabriel Harrison. Anno looks for alternative ways of rethinking history to see how we can find our path back to integrate the biosphere in our life as a form of hope. 

Anno’s practice also centers around intergenerational communication and reciprocation of modes of thinking. During her time as the Holt Visiting Scholar, Spectacle of Nature serves as her beginning a dialogue with students in ARTSTUDI 145B: Painting: The Expanded Field about how we can begin to deconstruct Euro-American lens on canons of art history and to facilitate the role of artists in communicating the complex emotions that is associated with climate change. Over the duration of fall, the discourse that Anno and her students engaged in will manifest in new works by the students that quietly substitutes the Coulter Gallery, now functioning as an exhibition-classroom-atelier. Spectacle of Nature will sequentially transition into the adjacent Vitrine Gallery as the reminder of the foundations of the class’s discussions. 

Professor Jonathan Calm had the insight to link the Holt Visiting Artist program with a re-invigorated form of the open studio concept, and Enrique Chagoya continues to be a driving force in the inspired choice of artists for the program. This new mode of pedagogy looks to the future while embracing a venerated past tradition of teaching in the atelier.