William L. Fox

William L. Fox, Director of the Center for Art + Environment at the Nevada Museum of Art in Reno, Nevada, has variously been called an art critic, science writer, and cultural geographer. He has published twelve books on cognition, art and landscape, numerous essays in art monographs, magazines and journals, and fifteen collections of poetry. Among his recent nonfiction titles are Aereality: On the World from Above; Terra Antarctic: Looking Into the Emptiest Continent; In the Desert of Desire: Las Vegas and the Culture of Spectacle; and The Void, the Grid, and the Sign: Traversing the Great Basin. Fox is also an artist who has exhibited in numerous group and solo shows in seven countries since 1974.

Fox has researched and written books set in the extreme environments of the Antarctic, the Arctic, the Atacama Desert of Chile, and other locations. He is a fellow of both the Royal Geographical Society and Explorers Club. Fox is the recipient of fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, and National Science Foundation, and has been a visiting scholar at the Getty Research Institute, Clark Art Institute, the Australian National University, and National Museum of Australia. He is a contributing editor of Orion magazine and an adjunct faculty member at the University of Nevada Reno.

Project Statement

I am currently researching material for a new book, The Art of the Anthropocene, which will trace the co-evolution of Earth systems science and landscape art. The science portion will begin with Alexander von Humboldt’s explorations in South America and his discovery of isotherms, and then his influence on other scientists as they developed a concept of ecology. I’ll take the science thread up through Paul Crutzen and his proposing that we are in a new geologic epoch, the Anthropocene. The art will start with Frederic Church, who followed Humboldt’s footsteps in order to create large encyclopedic landscape paintings in the mid-19th century. I’ll track landscape art into the history of photography and the rise of the environmental movement of the mid-20th century, noting the affect of Rachel Carson on photographer Ansel Adams, among other artists. The book will conclude with artists conducting land art interventions in the landscape, direct use of land in ephemeral gestures that mostly leave no physical trace, but a profound cultural one.

Biosphere 2 will be the setting for the first chapter of the book, an example of how humans attempt to model the world and its systems in a profoundly architectural setting. I’ll be writing about the building and its history, how its uses are changing, and the hillslope experiment. I’ll also be dealing with the work done by the two photographers who have been in residence here, Judy Natal and Dana Fritz, who are working along related arcs of inquiry.