Painter and photographer Diane Burko uses art to discuss geological events

Diane Burko visits CU Boulder on Oct. 28th, 2014 to speak as a part of the Department of Art & Art History Visiting Artist Program. (Jade Lang/CU Independent)
Diane Burko visited CU Boulder on Oct. 28, 2014, to speak as a part of the department of art & art history Visiting Artist Program. (Jade Lang/CU Independent)

Painter and photographer Diane Burko spoke Tuesday at the Visual Arts Complex about various geological phenomenons such as glaciers, waterfalls and volcanoes.

Burko explained her realization on how her art played a big part in geology as well as helped to represent the concern of glaciers melting. She showed the audience her paintings and explained what they meant to her and what they meant for art as well as science.

“There is an intersection between art and science, and artists today, we cross a lot of boundaries,” Burko said. “Scientific institutions, universities, museums, even think tanks recognize and welcome artists to communicate science for the public.”

She began painting geological sites such as the Grand Canyon, waterfalls and Yellowstone, and realized all of these locations had to do with geology. She then began to paint images such as glaciers, showing a picture of Glacier National Park from about 150 years ago.

Her paintings depict how these land marks have changed over time and represent the good and bad changes that have happened to them.

“150 years ago, there were about 150 glaciers there,” Burko said. “Now, there are less than 25. So this takes on a different kind of significance.”

Acknowledging that her paintings could convey more to her viewers than just beautiful places in the world, Burko uses them to express the rapid changes in the climate and what the results of these drastic changes looked like.

“I found these photographs from the NSIDC, which is the National Snow and Ice Data Center, which is right here at the university,” Burko said. “I found out I had these sources where I could actually see a glacier between 40, 50, or 60 years later right in front of me.”

Burko has been able to actually visit Glacier National Park, where she saw, along with scientists, how the glacier formations have been changing. She was able to use images taken by mountain climbers in order to paint “the future” of the environment such as the droughts and other changes in mountains such as the Himalayas.

Burko’s biggest challenge was to figure out how to make her paintings convey environmental issues while also interesting people who are not already involved in climate change activism.

Through the use of her art, Burko was able to represent the past and what time has done to the climate. With her work, she has been able to put a new perspective on the climate change that is not purely scientific.

Burko traveled through the arctic to get a firsthand view of the ice she had been painting and saw what had been occurring.

Her art presents a visual explanation of the climate challenge we face and promotes the concern to an audience who may not have a scientific background.

Diane Burko visited CU on October 28, 2014. Burko’s art focuses on the urgent issues of climate change (Jade Lang/CU Independent).

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Annie Mehl at

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