Chrysler Museum spotlights the impact of sea level rise and climate change in new exhibitions

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Chrysler Museum spotlights the impact of sea level rise and climate change in new exhibitions
Greta Pratt (American, b. 1955), Chairs on Dock, from the series Tidewater, 2020. Archival pigment print. Courtesy of the artist.

NORFOLK, VA.- The Chrysler Museum of Art unites the work of artists and scientists to explore the effects of sea-level rise, tidal flooding and shoreline erosion in FloodZone: Photographs by Anastasia Samoylova and Waters Rising: A View from Our Backyard, both on view through May 29, 2022. From various sites in Hampton Roads and South Florida, these artists and researchers document, visualize and reflect upon the dire realities of our current climate crisis and its impact on communities along the U.S. East Coast, making palpable seemingly distant issues in our immediate environment and underscoring the urgent need for adaptation.

In FloodZone, the Chrysler Museum transports visitors to the vibrant yet vulnerable coastal region of Miami, Florida through Anastasia Samoylova’s striking and stirring photographic account of everyday life in a threatened coastal ecosystem. Her works catalog the physical and psychological effects of sea-level rise and climate change along South Florida’s receding shoreline, blurring the lines between paradise and catastrophe in a probing analysis of a climate in crisis.

Born in the Soviet Union, Samoylova moved to Miami Beach in 2016. After riding out Hurricane Irma in a mandatory evacuation zone—frozen traffic and depleted gas barring her escape—she wandered the deserted city to document the storm’s damages. Describing the harrowing experience, she says, “Miami Beach, usually packed with tourists, was a zombie city. It felt apocalyptic. That’s when I realized I had a project.”

Samoylova uses her lens to explore the dissonant aspects of her sinking environment, where glistening high-rise condominiums tower over flooded streets, and real estate development continues unabated despite rising sea levels, persistent flooding and crumbling infrastructure. The resulting images consciously develop a visual inventory of daily experience at the water’s edge, exposing the signs of unease, trepidation and decay that pepper the flooding landscape. Samoylova’s poignant and vastly emotive photographs reverberate beyond Florida’s shoreline, raising broad questions about our response to the inexorable and accelerating battle against rising seas.

“With an eye for subtlety and a conscientious attention to the everyday, Samoylova abandons the shock of climate disaster photography for a searching investigation into the cognitive dissonance of climate change—how people continue to live, often anxiously, amid rising waters,” says Seth Feman, Ph.D., the Chrysler Museum’s deputy director for art & interpretation and curator of photography.

Waters Rising is a collaborative project organized by both the Chrysler Museum of Art and Old Dominion University’s (ODU) Institute for Coastal Adaptation and Resilience (ICAR). Yielding cutting-edge research on climate change, sea-level rise, green infrastructure and community resilience, ICAR leverages the disciplinary depth of ODU faculty to develop practical solutions to the unprecedented challenges facing coastal communities.

“Over the last decade, ODU experts have focused on issues of sea-level rise and flooding in the laboratory, the classroom and the community to address the challenges facing our region and other coastal regions across the country and the world,” says John Broderick, Ph.D., president emeritus of Old Dominion University. “The University is invested heavily in communicating to the public the myriad emerging challenges surrounding resilience planning. In doing so, we’re proud to continue the educational legacy started by Dr. Larry Atkinson more than a decade ago.”

The research initiatives and creative projects undertaken by ICAR researchers are on view in the Chrysler Museum’s Focus Gallery, submerging viewers in the experts’ unparalleled efforts to reduce vulnerability and plan for the future. The exhibition presents scientific models, video simulations, photographs and artwork that provide insight into the causes and consequences of sea-level rise in coastal communities across Hampton Roads, bringing both immediacy and long-term perspective to the pressing issue.

“Like many institutions in Hampton Roads, the Chrysler Museum directly experiences the effects of sea-level rise on a regular basis,” says Chrysler Museum Director Erik H. Neil, Ph.D. “Resiliency is the top concern as we plan for our future.”

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