Dorothy Kerper Monnelly, Great Blue Heron, Sunrise, 2008, Ipswich, Massachusetts.

Earth Day Letter

In celebration of Earth Day (April 22) the San Juan Islands Museum of Art will open Fragile Waters—a monumental exhibition of black-and-white photographs by three of our most celebrated environmental photographers: Ansel Adams, Dorothy Kerper Monnelly, and Ernest Brooks II. Curated by Jeanne Falk Adams, this show presents exquisitely sculpted icebergs, windless marshes, wave-ravaged coastlines, and dream-like worlds below the ocean’s surface. As the title suggests, the exhibition focuses on the delicate and endangered state of our world’s water and is a call for us to advocate for it.

Earth Day was established in 1970 to raise awareness about the importance of our environment and environmental protection. 46 years later, it is the largest civic observance in the world with over one billion people participating in activities in over 196 countries. We are proud to be part of and to contribute to such an important day. And our participation is further inspired by the incredible jewel of the San Juan Islands.

To come to this exhibition, many of our visitors will cross the Salish Sea—looking out at orcas, seals, and otters, cormorants and gulls, forests of kelp and eel grass, and the play of sunlight upon the waves. Here in the San Juan Islands, the vast beauty of the Salish Sea is why most of us are here, and our way of life and our economy are dependent upon its health.

It is my hope this exhibition provides a forum for discussing a variety of water-related issues relevant to this region—protection of endangered orcas, regulation of human-produced sound in our waters, salmon recovery efforts, wetlands restoration, municipal water sources and sewage disposal practices, dangers posed by fossil fuel terminals and shipping, and the aim of establishing these waters as a Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA), just to name a few.

These are all complex issues with a variety of viewpoints. In this arena, the museum becomes particularly alive—it is, after all, the “house of the muses,” the goddesses of inspiration. A calling to our higher selves, art asks us to measure ourselves against beauty, against a world far greater than what any one of us can measure individually. As such, it helps articulate what might otherwise be out of reach. I believe art has the capacity to start complex conversations and to keep them afloat in our collective mind. It is my hope you’ll join this collective conversation by attending the museum and sharing what you see and think about.

In 1915, John Muir wrote: “When we contemplate the whole globe as one great dewdrop, striped and dotted with continents and islands, flying through space with other stars all singing and shining together as one, the whole universe appears as an infinite storm of beauty.”

And so it is. This earth is our dewdrop. Our perfect storm of beauty. We have no other.




Ian Boyden
Executive Director
San Juan Islands Museum of Art