Ice and Wood Fusion: Talasnik's FLOE Exhibition Redefines Climate Art

Friday, December 15th, 2023

Pictured Above: Centerpiece of FLOE “The Glacier” by Stephen Talasnik, Photo Credit: John Carlano



Philadelphia, PA – The Museum for Art in Wood  presents a new exhibition, FLOE: A Climate of Risk | The Fictional Archaeology of Stephen Talasnik (FLOE), by world-renowned sculpture and installation artist Stephen Talasnik. On display in the Museum’s gallery from now to February 18, 2024, FLOE is centered around a specific, fictional narrative underscoring the looming effects of climate change.

In FLOE, Talasnik returns to his hometown to build a fictional narrative of a shipwreck carried to Philadelphia by a glacier. As global temperatures warmed, the glacier melted and surrendered the ship’s remains, which were discovered by an imagined group of curious children based on Talasnik’s own childhood. The archaeological remains and reconstructions are presented in the exhibition, alongside a structural representation of the glacier that carried the ship to its final resting place. FLOE features an in situ installation including an original large-scale sculpture paired with a curated selection of Talasnik’s sculptures and art he chose from the Museum’s permanent collection.

The centerpiece of FLOE, The Glacier (pictured above) is a monumental, large-scale sculpture by Talasnik, which was made from half-a-mile of bent bamboo set to a pinewood frame. Modeled on a fictional glacier that buried the shipwreck, the intricately constructed immersive work, created on-site in the Museum’s exhibition space, reminds visitors of the sublime power of nature and its constant, often destructive, search for equilibrium.

This sculpture is inspired by the structure, anatomy, and form of glaciers, which are large accumulations of ice, snow, rock, and sediment that form on land. The intricate patterning of the reeds echoes the striations and layers of materials that comprise them.

Pictured Above: FLOE: A Climate of Risk Installation photos, Photo Credit: John Carlano

Glacial Mapping by Liam and Stephen Talasnik

This theoretical drawing is inspired by the charts of “glaciologists” (scientists who study glaciers). It depicts the cluster of these fictional glaciers presumed to have been wandering with the current off the coast of Iceland into the North Atlantic. Not actually based on scientific data, the drawing is an interpretation informed by notes taken by observers on the ships.

Looking around the gallery, you’ll find Debris sculptures. Displayed on tables for close examination, on shelves, and along the “Panorama” up above, these fragments represent the original relics of a destroyed wooden ship, which were strewn across Delaware bay and made their way to land by way of the tides and currents to an area now identified as Southwest Philadelphia. According to the artist’s fictional saga, he and his childhood friends dug up these “artifacts” as they rampaged through the city seeking treasure in its streets and lots. Archeologists from Penn were later to identify them as the remains of this ill-fated ship, which set sail from Ireland to the south bay surrounding Iceland in the late 1800s.

Studio Sculptures (Works by Stephen Talasnik)

Stephen Talasnik is often inspired by architecture—his drawings and sculptures portray fantastic structures that often seem to defy the constraints of gravity and the properties of known materials. The seven sculptures seen in the exhibition propose a “visionary glacial architecture”: from weathered scaffolds and industrial spirals to wooden fossils suspended and preserved in resin, these sculptural forms draw from the wealth of mythical lore inspired by maritime history as well as the scientific data that bookend human understanding of nautical technology, exploration, geological phenomena, and the impact of climate change.

Pictured Above: FLOE: A Climate of Risk Installation photos, Photo Credit: John Carlano

The Closet of Curiosities (various artists)
Cabinets of Curiosities (Wunderkämmern) emerged in Europe in the mid-1500s. Originally room-sized, they contained objects believed by the collector to be significant, wondrous, and worthy of further study. The “curiosities” could be scientific specimens gathered from nature or handmade trinkets, talismans, and tools. Often, they merged the natural and artificial worlds, and are likely to have been predecessors to museums.

As he constructed the world of FLOE, Stephen Talasnik studied the Museum for Art in Wood’s permanent collection. For his Wunderkammer, titled The Closet of Curiosities, he selected works that reflect an aesthetic reminiscent of nautical architecture, antiquities, or objects of ambiguous definition that complement the story illustrated throughout the exhibition. Mark Lindquist’s Ancient Archaeological Captive (1990–92) a mysterious vessel, an artifact from a lost civilization. Its archaic designs are a call-and-response by Lindquist in conversation with the naturally formed “worm-lines” caused by bark borer insects. Per Brandstedt’s Antithesis sculptures (2019) hovering above, are weightless threads of white ash that undulate and move with the tidal currents. And Katie Hudnall’s Five Stories Cabinet (2022) (Photos linked above) is a meta-narrative of
Talasnik’s Closet—a time capsule of stories and conversations known only to the participants of a private experience.

About Stephen Talasnik:
Born and raised in Southwest Philadelphia, Talasnik has centered his artistic career around exploring the links
between drawing and building, ranging from intimate objects to large-scale monolithic installations. His work is
informed by time and “fictional functional” ideas. He never utilizes measurement or software, instead allowing the piece to evolve organically. Talasnik was drawn to architecture at an early age and later attended the Rhode Island School of Design and Temple University’s Tyler School of Art. Talasnik’s earliest ephemeral structures were built at the Storm King Art Center in New Windsor, New York, Tippet Rise Art Center in Fishtail, Montana, the Japan Society in New York City, and the Denver Botanical Garden in Colorado. His art has been exhibited across the world, with works in the collections of Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Albertina in Vienna, the British Museum in London, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

About the Museum for Art in Wood:
The Museum for Art in Wood is the international leader for contemporary art and creativity in the material of
wood. The Museum engages, educates, and inspires the public through the exhibition, collection, and interpretation of contemporary art in wood. Founded in 1986 and sited in Philadelphia, the Museum for Art in
Wood serves a local and international community. It has built its reputation by providing opportunities for makers and visitors to experience craft directly, through participatory programming; seminal exhibitions and
documentation; and the growth, conservation, exhibition, and care of its permanent collection. The Museum’s
practice of keeping these resources free and available to the public emphasizes its commitment to building a
democratic and inclusive community. Visit to learn more.

Pictured Above: FLOE: A Climate of Risk Installation photos, Photo Credit: John Carlano

Read it First, Subscribe to Our Newsletter