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Scarred Landscape:

The Adirondack Photographs of J. Henry Fair

2022 Temporary Exhibition – Opening July 1

The 6-million-acre Adirondack Park is the largest publicly protected area in the United States mainland. Thousands of people come each year to rest, relax, and rejuvenate surrounded by the natural beauty of mountains, forests, lakes, and streams.  Yet this “wilderness,” this protected place loved by so many, bears the marks of nearly 200 years of use and abuse.

The impact of human activity in the Adirondack Park is often easiest to grasp when seen from above. Scarring of the landscape from mining, paper mills, agriculture, recreation, and climate change are not always apparent from the ground, often hidden from road view and scenic trails. Photographer J. Henry Fair’s monumental aerial photographic prints document changes in the landscape, from the towering piles of tailings (a byproduct of iron mining) on Lyon Mountain to the acreage of trees cut to allow the creation of an Olympic bobsled run. Resembling colorful abstract paintings, these images sometimes require a closer look to fully realize that beauty hides a less attractive story.

Although the Park has been relatively protected from the worst impacts from industrialization, the Adirondacks have nonetheless been affected by our consumerist culture from inside and outside the Blue Line. The long-term effects our unsustainable use of our natural resources world-wide is becoming less abstract as we face unprecedented weather events, unhealthy water supplies, and vanishing species—but there is hope. Places like the Adirondack Park offer a model for learning to live sustainably in ways that allow the planet—our home—to heal.

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