A painting of a vast blue sky with lots of orange clouds over it. At the bottom is the beach front with waves lapping around

If the Sky Were Orange: Art in the Time of Climate Change

A painting of a vast blue sky with lots of orange clouds over it. At the bottom is the beach front with waves lapping around

If the Sky Were Orange: Art in the Time of Climate Change

Guest curated by Jeff Goodell
September 9, 2023
February 11, 2024

About the Exhibition

This special two-part exhibition explores the history and contemporary urgency of climate-
related issues. Guest curated by journalist Jeff Goodell, who has written extensively on the
topic, If the Sky Were Orange is the first exhibition at the Blanton to explore one topic across
several of the museum’s temporary gallery spaces.

The Contemporary Project and Film & Video Gallery feature work by ten contemporary artists
addressing how climate change affects life on our planet, from how we create energy to the
stability of ice sheets in Antarctica. Texts by Goodell and internationally known scientists and
writers from The University of Texas at Austin and beyond interpret the artworks from the
perspective of the authors’ specialized knowledge of climate change.

In the museum’s Paper Vault, works selected by Goodell from the Blanton’s collection
complement and contextualize the contemporary works on view. Spanning centuries, the
featured artworks demonstrate that many of the issues related to climate change today are not
new. For example, artists have long addressed how humans both harmonize with nature and
grapple with its unpredictable and monumental forces. They have explored energy as both an
economic and cultural force, as well as what has been gained and lost by technological
progress. While many of these works were not created in response to climate change, Goodell
interprets the selections in light of our rapidly changing world.

The exhibition’s title, If the Sky Were Orange, is inspired by a large painting in the Blanton’s
collection by Aaron Morse, Cloud World (#3) (2014), which features jarring, hot-orange clouds
floating above a massive seascape. Goodell sees the painting as a striking visual metaphor for
the greenhouse gases causing rising temperatures on our planet: Were those gases a visible
color, he suggests, we would be far more aware of their presence in our atmosphere and thus
their consequences for the Earth. A hotter planet and the related rise in sea levels are the two
best-known issues around climate change, but the exhibition explores the complex
interrelatedness of climate disruption and human knowledge and culture, including such
benefits as the advancement of scientific research and related solutions like renewable energy
and human and environmental adaptability.

Writers featured:
Amitav Ghosh
Jeff Goodell
Katharine Hayhoe
Elizabeth Kolbert
Sy Montgomery
Julian Brave Noisecat
Olúfẹ́mi O. Táíwò
John Vaillant
Michael Webber
Amy Westervelt

Contemporary artists featured include:
Jessie Homer French
Amy Globus
Christine Sun Kim
Cannupa Hanska Luger
Sandra Sawatzky
Nyugen E. Smith

Guest curated by Jeff Goodell. The organizing curator is Carter E. Foster, Deputy Director for
Curatorial Affairs, Blanton Museum of Art, assisted by the curatorial staff and the 2022-2023 Modern and Contemporary Mellon Fellow.


About Jeff Goodell

Jeff Goodell’s latest book, The Heat Will Kill You First: Life and Death on a Scorched Planet, will be published by Little, Brown in July 2023. He is the author of six previous books, including The Water Will Come: Rising Seas, Sinking Cities, and the Remaking of the Civilized World, which was a New York Times Critics Top Book of 2017. He has covered climate change for more than two decades at Rolling Stone and discussed climate and energy issues on NPR, MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, ABC, NBC, Fox News, and The Oprah Winfrey Show. He is a Senior Fellow at the Adrienne Arsht-Rockefeller Foundation Resilience Center and a 2020 Guggenheim Fellow.

Photo: Matt Valentine

Feature Image Credit

Aaron Morse, Cloud World (#3), 2014, acrylic on canvas, 89 x 118 in., Blanton Museum of Art,
The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Portia Hein and Philip Martin, 2015.34, © Aaron Morse

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