Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Visual artists experiencing nature: Examining human-environment relationships
by Wiita, Amy Lynn, Ph.D., University of Alaska Fairbanks, 2015, 235; 3740171
Abstract (Summary)

Anthropology has a long history collaborating with artists to understand their artwork. However, little research exists in the discipline that focuses on artists as a group, their creative process, and what may influence that process. In particular, how artists use nature and place has not been studied; instead, anthropology has generally considered nature and place as merely a backdrop for culture rather than for its impact on cultural expression. Identification of diverse aspects of the interdependence of ecological and social systems can inform our understanding of how people address issues of environmental concern. Managers, scientists, creative people, and others working at the nexus of disciplines, management needs, and ecological and social systems can facilitate this understanding through knowledge sharing. In my research I examined how two groups of visual artists process their interaction with the environment through what I term “experiencing with” nature and how this may influence them as artists.

I employed phenomenological inquiry methods and interdisciplinary analysis to investigate the ways in which artists develop a sense of experiencing with nature and a sense of place. I developed an experiencing formula framework representing relationships between variables involved in the act of experiencing in order to analyze artists’ narratives and actions as a way to examine their perceptions of their experiences with nature. The analysis made evident six primary categories of findings: artists’ sense of experiencing with nature, their purpose of experiencing, their process of experiencing, their conceptual definitions of nature, their access to nature, and how they experienced nature through the artist residency programs. I propose the experiencing formula framework may be suitable for describing human-environment relationships beyond the boundaries of artists and nature.

The artists’ experiences were individual and influenced them to varying degrees. They experienced nature with purpose and encountered both tension and inspiration while gathering resources for their work. They were not so concerned with defining nature as seeking to tell their story of place through their sense of experiencing to communicate their experiences with nature through their works. Experiencing with nature provided them with a language for expressing themselves. Nature was a place for journey and exploration for the artists.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Lee, Molly
Commitee: Chapin, F. Stuart, III, Jonaitis, Aldona, McDonough, Maureen, Schweitzer, Peter
School: University of Alaska Fairbanks
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- Alaska
Source: DAI-A 77/05(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Environmental science
Keywords: Art, Environment, Experience, Nature, Perception, Sense of place
Publication Number: 3740171
ISBN: 978-1-339-32193-6
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