America with the big appetite An environmentalist's images depict the country as a voracious consumer.

Posted: February 19, 2010

"Chris Jordan: Running the Numbers" at Haverford College is a totally different kind of environmental photography exhibit.

It examines the culture of consumption. This traveling show pulls us in to look closely at 15 large composite images. And many of these are so startling that the display could make a deep impact on the American public if its message is taken to heart.

Jordan, of Seattle, practiced law before taking up environmental photography as his life's work. This gives him the opportunity to make his case to the world about saving the planet.

Jordan says he uses staggering numbers as a kind of "translation from the deadening language of statistics into a more universal language that might allow for more feeling.

"The underlying aim is to question our roles and responsibilities as individuals in a society that is increasingly enormous, incomprehensible, and overwhelming."

Think of 100 million trees cut down yearly to make the paper for our junk mail; think of 426,000 cell phones disposed of in the United States daily; a six-panel image of 2.3 million folded prison uniforms equaling the number of Americans imprisoned in 2005.

Also, 11,000 jet trails signifying the number of commercial jet flights in the United States every eight hours; 2 million plastic beverage bottles used in the country every five minutes; and a Georges Seurat masterpiece painting fashioned from aluminum cans. The list goes on.

These landscape photos are digitally fabricated compositions, each containing a specific quantity of something unfriendly to our environment that Jordan photographed from real objects.

This first East Coast showing of a display organized by the Washington State University Museum of Art provides a penetrating look at a provocative subject deserving serious study by all of us.

Haverford College's Cantor Fitzgerald Gallery, Haverford. To March 5. Mon-Fri 11-5, Wed 11-8, Sat-Sun noon-5. Free. 610-896-1287.

Large paintings

Maureen Drdak has carved out her own aesthetic territory with her exhibit "From Mosul to Mustang" at Rosemont College.

When we see these large paintings, we realize the amazing range of feeling she's able to wrest from these works, which are basically abstractions containing some symbolic elements borrowed from cultures other than our own. Drdak, a Philadelphian, also has embarked on an ambitious program of displaying her work overseas.

Highlighted here are her "Lions" and "Lungta" pieces. "The Killing of Lions: An Iraqi War Meditation" (in vivid red on black) recalls such ancient sources as Assyrian art and a Nineveh tradition whereby lions were offered by the king to the deity. She links this to the Western world's modern Iraqi warfare with its own cult of sacrifice.

Drdak is safely ambiguous both here and in her "Lungta Triptych," which takes inspiration from Tibetan cultures in the remote Himalayas, addressing rapid changes there and offering a prayer for planetary peace.

This is a very promising solo, with captivating themes.

Rosemont College's Lawrence Gallery, Rosemont. To March 11. Mon-Fri 9-8. Free. 610-526-2967.

Lozano plus four

Joseph Lozano's oils seem to be partly about the passage of light over surfaces of abundant massed areas, and partly about global warming. In the five-person group show that his work dominates at Artists' House, he also has made an emblem of the world of water courses.

Milder-mannered realist painter Lauren Tilden sets blond figure subjects aglow with brushwork commanding easy admiration. Yet she overlooks such painterliness in her landscapes, causing Dan Miller's woodcut poet portraits in their intense spareness to seem almost fussy by comparison.

The confidence and command in particular that Noah Buchanan's figure drawings exude are satisfying to the eye, and Hilarie Hawley's small mixed-media works attend to the more pensive task of conveying the soul of the show.

Artists' House Gallery, 57 N Second. To Feb. 28. Wed-Sun noon-5. Free. 215-923-8440.

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