Artist Elle MacLaren Wants To Make You Think About Climate Change

In the midst of the pandemic, political upheaval and an overall sense of unease, escaping to a new art exhibit sounds like a respite. A new show at Loveland’s Artworks Center for Contemporary Art hopes to offer some calm but also a message.

Elle MacLaren, a former Boulder resident who now resides in Santa Fe, New Mexico, has returned to Colorado with a evocative set of works called “Tragic Beauty.”

Elle MacLaren

“It's been an ongoing series for almost four years now,” MacLaren said. “Um, I started the series in 2017 when the new administration came to the White House, and I was very disturbed by the lack of believing science and the reckless dismissal of climate change and global warming.”

“I thought, well, as an artist, I would like to make a statement with my art.” 

Based on photographs of glaciers, MacLaren uses encaustic painting to bring to life her subject's chilly natural colors. It’s a beeswax-based medium she has worked in for over 20 years. She found inspiration for the colors in her works from the glaciers themselves, from beautiful dark blues to even a few hints of green.

Though the colors and fluid shapes may be calming, perhaps even soothing, there’s an unmistakable uneasiness at its center. The texture evokes a fluid look, creating a physical reminder of the constant melting threatening the glaciers’ very existence. 

“It was my idea and hope that they would be drawn into the visual beauty of the pieces, and then really start thinking about what's actually happening,” MacLaren said. “That's why I named it ‘Tragic Beauty,’ to think about the tragedy and how dire the situation is. It may sound naive, but I'm really hoping that people will think about it, and it will raise more awareness and inspire people to get involved.”

MacLaren said she’s excited for this show for a different reason. After her two exhibitions went virtual last year due to COVID-19, “Tragic Beauty” is her return to showing her work in-person.

“I'm really excited to have a show here because I was able to actually hang all the work and it is a physical presence,” she said. “There's so much texture and the color is so deep, if you can see it. People can actually come in and look at them.”

“Tragic Beauty” runs Jan. 8 through Feb. 27 at the Artworks Center for Contemporary Art in Loveland.