YR in Support of Nature

In Support of Nature

I am very fortunate to have lived in places of great beauty during my life. Perhaps that is why I am so distressed by the relentless damage being done to the environment.

I often say, as an artist I was born in Alaska. It was in Alaska that I discovered my vocation as an artist/printmaker. And it was in Alaska where I developed a deep appreciation for nature. I was struck by the extraordinary beauty surrounding me; its delicate balance made human beings appear insignificant.

As an artist, I believe the beauty of nature (because there is beauty!) is worth protecting. The deterioration of the seas and forests is visibly apparent. We must all do our part. We are just one of the many living creatures that share this planet. Let us not allow our human arrogance to prevent us from seeing that. Scientists have warned about climate change for decades, and environmental advocates
have been raising the alarm of its consequences for years. I wish to convey this message through my art —even if it is only one more little voice.

In Galicia, where I have a studio, I witnessed the environmental catastrophe caused by the Prestige oil spill. I often wonder if the damage is irreversible...By harming the oceans and the forests, scientists say we are further accelerating climate change. This destruction saddens me. My recent exhibitions Climate Change. An Artist's Perspective, Unsustainable EscalationThe Sea As I See It and Trees to Meet You have been personal protests against these lamentable situations.

—Yolanda del Riego
Madrid, 2016

Aurora Borealis. 1976. Linocut

YR at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, 1973

YR at Moraine Lake in Banff National Park, 1973

The trip to Alaska: the adventure of my life

In 1973, I moved with my family from New Hampshire to Anchorage. We spent a month driving across Canada from east to west, trying to see as much as possible. This 5,000-mile trip was one of the most fantastic adventures of my life.

I will never forget the majestic scenery of the Canadian Rocky Mountains, of Banff and Jasper national parks. Driving north through British Columbia we arrived at Dawson Creek. From there, the Alaska (or Alcan) Highway would take us up to the Alaskan border. What an adventure! Conditions have greatly improved since then, but in 1973 it was a gravel road with only an occasional passing car. Stopping points were few and far between.

The Milepost was the essential guide for knowing where to find places to eat, refuel or sleep —often small trading posts with only a few houses. We passed through old abandoned towns along the way. Their saloons and ramshackle buildings were reminiscent of the Wild West. About halfway across the Alcan we arrived in Whitehorse, former capital of the Klondike Gold Rush. With its 5,000 inhabitants, it felt so big-city after the remoteness along the Alcan.

As we continued onward through the Yukon Territory, the presence of black bears and moose became more frequent. 2,000 km (1,200 miles) later, we finally crossed the border into Alaska and arrived in Tok. It was nothing more than a gas station and a trailer motel.

When we arrived in Anchorage in 1973, it was already a city of some 30,000 inhabitants. During the seven years I lived there, I witnessed the boom brought on by the construction of the Prudhoe Bay pipeline. The Anchorage I left in 1980 was a very different place —the rapid growth had taken its toll on both the surroundings and the quality of life.