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Wildling Museum Presents: Great Sand Dunes National Park

Posted: Wednesday, May 31, 2006

By: Holly Cline (Expired article)

Los Olivos, CA -

According to the photographer, John B. Weller, “the creation of Great Sand Dunes National Park from Great Sand Dunes National Monument was anything but academic.” As the photographer who has best documented this unique ecosystem that is the newest addition to the national park system, Weller should know. Weller spent 3 ˝ years visiting the Great Sand Dunes National Monument in southern Colorado, for a week every month, training his camera lens on what he saw. [Note: photos provided courtesy of the artist and the National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, Wyoming.]

The result is a group of striking color photographs called “Between Light and Shadow: Great Sand Dunes National Park,” which will be exhibited at the Wildling Art Museum in Los Olivos (Santa Ynez Valley) between June 21 and September 10.

The reason Weller says the creation of the Great Sand Dunes National Park was not “academic,” is because the expanded park is not only bigger (encompassing the entire watershed upon which the dunes ecosystem depends) but also it only came about through an extraordinary collaboration between a number of individuals and organizations, including the Nature Conservancy, the National Park Service, scientists, investor groups, local and national politicians, and the citizens of Colorado’s San Luis Valley, who teamed together to stop a water developer who would have unwittingly devastated the entire dunes ecosystem.

The Great Sand Dunes National Park encompasses a 30-square mile section of wilderness with the highest sand dunes in north America, set against peaks that rise up to 14,000 feet high, and fierce wind and temperatures that fluctuate between -28F and 140F.

During his many weeks in the Park, the artist braved these circumstances lugging a 115 lb. pack. The photographs that document this experience reveal a landscape that is starkly beautiful, including undulating land forms, rippling sand patterns, and ribbons of ice reflecting the sky. As the Wildling Art Museum director, Penny Knowles, comments in the exhibition brochure, Weller’s photographs, though in color, certainly pay homage to Ansel Adam’s famous images of blown sand in Death Valley, White Sands National Monument in New Mexico, or Oceano, California. But Weller’s images are even more reductive, so abstract that wildlife, when it appears, seems almost out of place.”

Weller is a nature photographer and writer based in Boulder, Colorado. He was trained in environmental economics and philosophy at Stanford University. His work has been shown in museums and galleries across the country, including this traveling exhibition organized by the National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. In 2005, he was awarded the Galen Rowell Conservation Photography Award. His book of photography and essays, Great Sand Dunes National Park: Between Light and Shadow, published in 2004, was singled out as the 2004 Best Book Mountain Image Award at the Banff Book Festival.

Weller will present a free talk entitled, “Great Sand Dunes National Park: A Case for the Human Need for Conservation,” on June 18 at 3 p.m. at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, 2901 Nojoqui Street in Los Olivos. Participants are invited to the opening reception for the exhibition following the lecture.

The Museum is located at 2329 Jonata Street in Los Olivos. Public hours are Wednesday through Sunday, 11-5. Admission is free, but a $2.00 donation is requested of adults who are not Museum members.

For more information, visit the Museum’s website or call 805-688-1082.

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