Snows of Winter Past by Jill Pelto

Artist Statement

Title: Snows of Winter Past

Year: 2011

This image is a painting of Easton Glacier on Mt. Baker in Washington State. A graph sharply cuts across in front of the mountain — the data is the distance the Easton Glacier has retreated from 2000-2021, which is about 350 meters (~1,150 ft). Highlighted on the data line is 2011, a year of significance to the glaciers and to me.

I have worked every August from 2009-2021 on the glaciers of the North Cascade mountain range in Washington. This is an incredible project my dad, Mauri Pelto, started and has led since 1983. It is called the North Cascade Glacier Climate Project. Our team works on the same group of about 10 glaciers across the range. We are measuring changes to their snow depths, surface slopes, and total area each year. Doing this work is a gift, and has built a deep emotional connection with these landscapes. But we are here to record them changing, and so we must witness something we love diminishing. There is immense beauty and importance to these glaciers — they are part of an ecosystem, supplying meltwater to flora and fauna. They are also crucial in supplying water to communities, stepping into action during the warm summer months when the state receives much less rainfall. There are several years that stand out to me in working on these glaciers — most of all is 2011. The mountains in the Pacific Northwest got snowfall that year which hadn’t been seen in a long time. That year, lakes that you can normally swim in were still frozen over in August, many hiking trails never saw the sun, and very little ice was exposed on the glacier of the North Cascades. It was magical to witness.

2011 will forever stand out in my mind as an important year for the glaciers and for my home in the Northeast U.S. Winter’s power has been diminishing over the course of my life, but that year it was more like a decade prior — we got continuous snowstorms that coated our world in white. My love for snow runs deep in my soul and shows through in my family’s history of becoming glaciologists and skiers.

The artist I am paired with for the companion piece is Claire Giordano, a good friend who has been going to Easton Glacier for much of her life, and who has joined us several times during our science research.

Data Source:

Watercolor, Colored Pencil and Acrylic

December 2021

@GlaciogenicArt | @jillpelto

Pelto invited Claire Giordano to TIMEPieces. Their work is inspired by the year 2011.

Slices of TIME - 2011
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