artist + educator
“All of this is infected; we just don’t see it yet.” This is how a local forest service manager described the trees to me as we surveyed the horizon from Monarch Pass. Just a few years later, these trees now stand as skeletons, limb after limb blackened and dry.

A strange temporal gap in perception.

These temporal gaps can be found throughout the climate crisis. Recent studies show that it may take 40 years for the carbon dioxide to show itself fully in ecosystems. With beetle kill, many conditions were set in place at the turn of the 20th century with the advent of puritan fire suppression and extractive mining practices (among many other things). Additionally, rising temperatures and drought from climate change set in place decades ago (from the burning of fossil fuels in the 80s) fuel the epidemic. Thus beetle kill presents multiple scales of these temporal gaps (100 years, 40 years, 2 years...).

I’m interested in this overlap of temporal scales within current beetle infested forests. While most of the climate crisis is invisble, beetle kill presents a moment of seeing: an indicator; perhaps a tumor coming to the surface of a larger disease?

Symptom or Disease?, is an ongoing collaborative art project that explores the cascading impacts and underlying conditions of beetle kill on Monarch Pass. Through CU Boulder’s CASE fellowship, ecologists Kendi Davies and Laura Dee have partnered with artist Beth Johnston to display scientific data through various photographic methods. The artwork also represents countless conversations with Arkansas River Valley community members as well as local forest scientists and managers.

Expired land camera polaroids are used throughout the series to reference several underlying themes such as the latent image of climate change and conditions of toxic extraction that have allowed the beetle to flourish. Direct reference to specific scientific data is embedded in the work. As an example, out of 100 framed polaroids displayed, only 10 show an image (the result of their age and expiration). This points to the 90% mortality rate of englemann spruce from beetles on Monarch Pass. References to scientific blindspots are also included throughout the project, such as the polaroid that reads “1863?” which asks if the 1863 treaty that officially displaced the Ute tribe from the continental divide in Colorado is an erased factor in ongoing environmental degradation.

While the project explores the impacts of a specific beetle in a specific location in a specific time, it is also an invitation to consider what lies beyond what we currently see.


This project will be on display in the Colorado Capital Building May-October 2023 and will then tour the state as a initiative to use art as a form of climate education and activism. Presentations, panels, and workshops will accompany the art shows, with the aim of making the work accessible to a diverse audience.

Symptom or Disease? 

Work in Progress

Photography +
Original Typed Text

Colorado Capital Building
May 19th-October 30th

Commissioned by CU Boulder’s CASE (Colorado Action Science Environment) Fellowship