Surprisingly, it is much faster to take a gallery show down then it is to put it up. Sure, I had a lot of nail holes to patch, sand and paint over, but relative to the work prior––printing photos, laying out the show, writing poems and mounting on matte board, measuring, re-measuring, adjusting lights, and, of course, actually going in the field to get the photos in the first place––less than an hour to take down was an underwhelming breeze.
On one hand, I recognize a sense of satisfaction. I achieved a goal that I aspired to. But on the other hand, I feel an emptiness and listlessness. For a brief moment, the work––the beauty and hardness of glacier travel, the will-testing challenges of experiencing places often unexperienced, the total impact humans can have on the world around them––was illuminated, was given time and space and consideration. But now, the photos are stacked in a cardboard sleeve. The mounted poems are bundled, placed in a bag. The magnets return to their small container. The leftover postcards sit quietly on my desk. I stare at them; they stare blankly back.
I achieved something, but what did I actually achieve?
I don’t have numbers of viewers as a metric. I can only guess how many bodies passed through those gallery doors over the past six weeks. And I have no way at all of knowing if any of those bodies and minds were impacted by the images they saw and the words they read.
This is perhaps the hardest part of this work. My obsession with glaciers and sharing a world on the edge of its end dominates my own life. But what does my small expression do to influence any sort of change or awareness in others?
Of course, the work does continue. This summer I’ll backpack through Wyoming’s Wind River range to visit its quickly changing glaciers. I’ll return to the Columbia Icefield with a crew of glaciologists. I’ll continue to write the thesis (the book) that bring all of the experiences together.
Along the way I’ll wonder if my actions do make a difference. And I will realize and re-realize that at least for me, that difference is monumental.