"City&Sea" Exhibition Poster
Exhibition dates: January 29th - February 29th, 2024
Artist reception: Tuesday, February 13th from 4-6pm
Art Historian Karen Hjalmarson's essay for our exhibition "City&Sea", showcasing paintings by Bill Mosley currently on display at the Hyde Art Gallery until Febrary 29th.
Through the eyes of an environmentalist, landscape painter, Bill Mosley has always been concerned with the preservation of our natural resources. While a graduate student at UCSD in the early seventies, Mosley began his tenure as a studio assistant to the distinguished duo of eco-art activists, Helen and Newton Harrison. In this position, Mosley began to ponder the various ways in which the landscape and water levels in parts of San Diego were evolving and changing. Many of their collaborations revolved around groundbreaking work in the areas of urban planning and climate change reform. In a cultural and scientific manner, these artists sought to define issues with global warming and its effect on our city. This work also aligned with Mosley’s personal observations on the changing downtown landscape of San Diego beginning in the 1980’s.
Mosley watched from his downtown studio as high rise after high rise began to alter the city’s environment. In this body of work, the artist presented anonymous figures emerging from their surroundings. Some were office workers, but many were the construction people who built these steel and glass edifices. While some of his images show these anonymous individuals, other works are empty of any figurative reference. Mosley’s intent therefore was to capture the dynamic evolution of a city that seemed to be changing at an exceedingly rapid rate. Of course, not all changes the artist noted had a positive effect on the environment of the region.
"Center City" (2001), oil on canvas, 29"x27"
Although his observations and interest in the changing environment of San Diego began in the 1970’s, Mosley continued to pursue these concepts into the next century. In a magnificent work from 2001 titled, “Center City” we see an aerial view of downtown San Diego that stretches all the way to the waterfront. In this oil on canvas, the light and shadows the artist captures seem to play against the geometric forms of the low and high-rise structures. The light blue of the sky and sea give the painting a quality of calmness and beauty, while the darker shadows of the high-rise in the right foreground anchors the paintings with its strong presence.
“Center City” also reflects the artist’s love of water. He pursued this lifelong interest in the ocean by crafting meticulous paintings that highlighted the changes to the San Diego coastline. In a recent interview the artist stated, “There’s something about being in close proximity to an ocean that speaks to me.” Mosley also described his early love of surfing which he developed growing up in San Diego. “I began surfing when I was fourteen, and it has been a lifelong passion of mine.” But this sentiment for depicting the ocean was as much about creating a historical record of San Diego’s shoreline as it was about his desire to make viewers of his work aware of the importance of preserving this tremendous natural resource. In a wonderful oil painting from 2006 titled, “Torrey Pines View” the artist weaves his passion for surfing and his own experiences and observations on the changing coastline into this commissioned piece for a Del Mar investment company. While the painting, which beautifully captures the shoreline, bridge, and climb to Torrey Pines State Park does not overtly suggest environmental issues, it does suggest that the coastline is magnificent, yet fragile.
"Torrey Pines View" (2006), oil on canvas
Mosley however has gone beyond just recording the natural beauty of our environment. Through his work with the Harrisons, he learned the significance of collecting and preserving data in a scientific manner. He began to pay attention to worldwide temperature changes, climate calamities, and the melting of glaciers and icebergs in regions such as the Arctic, Iceland, and Greenland.
Perhaps his most visually stunning and environmentally significant paintings come from his Iceland Series which began after the first of several trips starting in 2015. While on the surface Icelandic environmental concerns seem so completely different from those of San Diego, the need to preserve the earth’s natural resources knows no limits. In his initial trip, Mosley explored many regions of this Nordic volcanic island. But a pivotal occurrence on a second trip led him to do a more extensive evaluation of the threats global warming has had on the many geological features of Iceland. Departing the island, he watched from a plane as walls of water and ice were shearing off the face of Vatnajökull Glacier.
"Vatnajökull" (2018), oil on canvas, 55"x30"
At this time, he vowed to return to Iceland to do a deeper investigation. In 2021 after driving hundreds of miles on Iceland’s unusual terrain, he reached the famous Vatnajökull National Park. This reserve by the same name contains the largest glacier in Europe. This glacier is the central landmark of the park and boasts over 30 outlet glaciers as well as volcanoes which are concealed under the ice. What Mosley came to witness is how the effects of global warming have so transformed this magnificent region.
The artist learned that volume of Vatnajökull reached its peak in 1930, but sadly it has been in a steady process of decline. Due to the rising levels of global temperatures, Vatnajökull has lost around three feet (one meter) of its thickness yearly over the past 15 years. Volcanic activity in this region which scientists believe is well overdue, could greatly produce devastating consequences for air travel, farming and the general climate like the eruption of the Eyjafjallajökull Volcano in 2010. Mosley learned that climate change is resulting in widespread warming of our atmosphere, land, and oceans, and increasing volcanic eruptions.
In the beautifully compelling work titled “Vatnajökull” an oil on canvas done in 2018, Mosley depicts in a horizontal format the floating mounds of ice that have fallen from the much larger glacier. The aqua blue of the frigid water highlights the fact that the glacier is rapidly losing walls of ice. Continually the artist suggests, the numbers of these melting ice formations will increase exponentially.
"City&Sea" Exhibition Installation, Hyde Art Gallery, 2024
While many painters hope to capture the beauty of the magical country of Iceland, Mosley goes far beyond. He is devoted to showing more than its dynamic landscape by highlighting the effects of climate change on this profoundly important and complex island. Mosley knows that art can have an impact on its viewers. By presenting these issues, the artist continues his work of documenting our changing world and the need to preserve and protect our natural resources. For this, he should be commended.
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