The Artist, The Witness, The Pursuit

4 min readJul 26, 2020


Working across mediums, Quin de la Mer listens to the natural world as it communicates its experience of the Anthropocene and creates artwork that provides a means to look beyond contemporary formations.

Patterned Ground: A Visual Conversation Concerning Climate Crisis as Distillations of Human History
Patterned Ground: A Visual Conversation Concerning Climate Crisis as Distillations of Human History (Fresco painting inspired by Quin’s time in Arctic Norway watching melting permafrost)

Quin de la Mer is a graduate of the California Institute of Integral Studies’ Creative Inquiry and Interdisciplinary Arts Program, earning her Master of Fine Arts degree in the Summer of 2019. Since graduating, Quin has continued to create and develop as an artist, most recently completing a residency at Murze Magazine. It is for her devotion and perseverance to the field of art that we proudly spotlight this exceptional alumnus. In the year since Quin graduated, she has continued her practice as a nomadic artist internationally pursuing the effects of the climate crisis. Recently, Quin took the time to catch us up on her journey.

M y first six months post-graduation were marked by time spent making artwork abroad in Arctic Norway, where melting sea ice and permafrost endangers life on earth. While I was there, climate scientists at the Norwegian Polar Institute were concerned that melting permafrost would release viruses previously contained within the frozen matter, particularly poignant considering the current global outbreak.

Requiem for the Salton Sea (50-cyanotype prints made with the Salton Sea)

I also spent several months creating work in the California Colorado Desert, where the Salton Sea is in the hospice stage of its death process. The collapse of the ecosystem due to land degradation and receding shoreline, the result of human activities in its watershed, means extinction for several species. To be with this extraordinary landscape was as surreal as it was heartbreaking. My time was filled with wonder at the radiant beauty that defies the human impact that created this catastrophe. Beauty was truly a warrior defeating disparity and opening space for the final transformation into formlessness and memory. My art process was a memorial, the completed works a requiem, myself a funeral conductor.

Geyserville Burn (IV) (cyanotype print made on location with wet debris that includes fire retardant, ash, damp earth)

The second six months began with climate crisis-induced wildfires in California’s Sonoma County, devastating an ecosystem housing billions of non-human lives. Arriving just after the flames had been extinguished, and with stealth, I located the epicenter of the fire at the Geysers in Geyserville, California, and proceeded to co-create artwork with the natural world. At the origin of the wildfire, black matchsticks as tall as trees pointed skyward, grey ash covered the earth, and hay-colored chemical fire retardant stuck to everything as far as the eye could see. A bright blue sky defied the lingering fear still present. Several small streams sparkled.

Frogless Contemplations (Still taken from Froglessness, an experimental film Quin made during her time in the Pacific Northwest when the COVID-19 pandemic was first emerging)

Next I traveled North, aiming to commune and create art with the forest of the Pacific North West, an area so abundant in wilderness, fertile and alive, yet still endangered by human encroachment. I landed in Portland just as the pandemic began… the great pause to business-as-usual hit like a thunderbolt. Traffic stilled, humans walked, lawns became gardens, and birdsong was the loudest sound to be heard.

It was a pure joy to work surrounded by nature stirring to life as though emerging from a coma. It was quite different from my conversations with places on the front lines of climate change, where the primary topics are always grief and death. The Pacific Northwest is by no means out of the woods, but wonder and joy radiated as it rapidly repaired the damage inflicted by the daily routines of its human neighbors.

During the past four months, I have been an artist in residence with Murze Magazine, a digital platform based in the U.K. Our focus has been Isolation, and it’s been a remarkable experience. Presently, I am creating with the Covid-19 virus, making visual work and experimental films as contemplations supportive of permanent change and disruption to human patterns producing global extinction.

For more work by Quin de la Mer visit: or her Instagram at

Edited: @dean_talamantez




Blog of the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts and Writing program at California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.