Recapturing the Sublime
Dr. Aaron M. Ellison, Senior Research Fellow in Ecology at the Harvard Forest, writes about the confluence of culture and the natural world in his recent article "The Suffocating Embrace of Landscape and the Picturesque Conditioning of Ecology." In this paper, Ellison argues that changes in landscape representation mirror a shift in the way humanity interacts with the environment. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, visual interpretations of the landscape have moved away from the wonder of the Romantic era. However, this shift is not altogether unwelcome. While numerous scientific studies have debunked the conception that there is an inherent balance in nature, the myth of the harmonious natural landscape, perpetuated by painters such as Albert Bierstadt and Fernand Léger, persists in both the art world and scientific circles. While Modernist and Postmodernist worldviews may offer a more realistic vision of nature, Ellison implores artists and ecologists to recapture some of the sublimity apparent in historical landscape painting. Ellison contends that the time has come to fully rediscover the interconnectedness of life on Earth.
Dr. Ellison researches the evolutionary ecology of carnivorous plants, the response of ants and plants to global climate change, and food web dynamics and community ecology of wetlands and forests. He also studies the application of Bayesian statistical inference to ecological research and environmental decision-making. You can find "The Suffocating Embrace of Landscape and the Picturesque Conditioning of Ecology" and 63 additional works authored by Dr. Ellison in DASH.
Feature by Vero Smith, OSC Open Access Fellow and graduate student at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. Photo of Ellison by David Foster, Director of Harvard Forest.