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Dittmar exhibition focuses on future of the planet

“Anthro-obscene: What We Choose Not to See” runs Oct. 29-Dec. 8

EVANSTON, Ill. --- For artist Stefan Petranek, multimedia techniques can change the views we hold of Earth.

The exhibition “Anthro-obscene: What We Choose Not to See” will open Oct. 29 and continue through Dec. 8 at Northwestern University’s Dittmar Memorial Gallery. The gallery is located inside Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Drive on the Evanston campus.

A photo-based artist, Petranek works in a variety of media ranging from historic photographs to video sculptures. Focusing on subjects that range from genetics to climate change, his work explores how contemporary culture, especially through advances in science and technology, affects our perception of nature.

“Anthro-obscene” presents a selection of works addressing the artist’s concern for the future of the planet. Entering a conversation with the viewer about the true status of the world’s most beloved places, Petranek overlays climate science data onto landscapes with national significance and strong personal resonance.

Incorporating laser etching, computer-controlled milling and LED light mapping processes allows Petranek to show viewers what is often overlooked and to create a conversation about our personal involvement in the age of the Anthropocene. Together, the work reveals a deeper truth that the camera alone cannot.

“The 'take home' message of the Anthropocene is that humans have so drastically altered the Earth and its natural processes that traces of our activities can be observed around the globe,” Petranek said. “To me, that's a horrifying truth, perhaps an obscene one.”

Petranek is an associate professor of photography and intermedia at Indiana University’s Herron School of Art and Design. He has exhibited his photography and video work across the United States and internationally, and in 2018, he received the Christel DeHaan Artist of Distinction Award. His series “The Future is Broken” explores the current state and future of climate change.

Petranek said the premise of this series is the lack of connection between ourselves and the changes occurring in the natural world around us.

“The goal of this artwork is to take data visualizations from environmental science and do a mashup with the places we know, care about or call home,” he said. “I mostly work with spaces that hold personal significance to my life because I am emotionally connected to them, and when I layer climate data and the implications of our actions directly into those landscapes I care about, I feel more connected, committed and worried about them.”

An opening reception will take place the evening of Oct. 29, 5 to 7 p.m., in the Dittmar Gallery.

Admission is free and open to the public. Gallery hours are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., Mondays through Sundays. Follow COVID-19 protocols; masks must be worn indoors; and social distancing is required.

Members of the public are asked to complete the online Visitor’s Request two to three days prior to visiting the gallery. 

For more information, visit the Dittmar website, call 847-491-2348 or email

Dittmar Gallery is a member of the Northwestern Arts Circle, which brings together film, humanities, literary arts, music, theater, dance and visual arts.