Missoula artist Monte Dolack has throughout his career grown increasingly aware of the importance of protecting the natural environment. After all, Montana's tall pines, meandering rivers and abundant wildlife have sustained him financially, spiritually and artistically for three decades.
"Almost everything I do has to do with nature or environmental issues," Dolack says.
He periodically infuses an undertone of activism in his creations. The artist's anxiety over the deteriorating health of his muse—the natural world—comes through in works like "Ascension," a sepia-toned piece in which woodpeckers fly in a golden sky over a clear-cut forest.
"It's a little, I would say, concerning," Dolack says.
So it's fitting that the United Nations selected "Ascension," along with 23 other Dolack posters, to display in a special exhibit, titled The Art of Trees, unveiled last month in Geneva, Switzerland, as part of a series of events commemorating the organization's "Year of Forests." Throughout 2011, the UN aims to raise awareness among communities across the globe of the importance of sustaining and growing timberlands.
When U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Betty E. King introduced Dolack's work last month before an international audience, she highlighted the interconnectedness of forests, people and industry.
"With evidence of climate change all around us, it is vital that we understand the connections among healthy forests, ecosystems, people and economies," she said.
Dolack couldn't agree more. He says his exhibit—and the "Year of Forests"—provides a timely reminder for Montanans to keep a protective eye on their natural surroundings. He's alarmed by the Montana Legislature's efforts to reverse hard-fought environmental protections. And he's outraged that lawmakers even discussed Senate Resolution No. 2, which, before being rejected by the Senate, resolved to urge the Congress to disengage from the UN entirely.
"Presently, the conservative Republican Legislature is trying to end our participation in the UN and to roll back environmental legislation that helps give us clean water, intact ecosystems," Dolack says. "This exhibit I did would not exist if their policies come to fruition."