Endemic to Epidemic | Melissa Lee

5 years ago, all of these trees were green.

Over the last few decades, the forests of eastern British Columbia and western Alberta have been significantly affected by an infestation of mountain pine beetles, whose presence can be recognized by the dying, orange-grey trees that have emerged in thousands amongst the greenery.

The mountain pine beetle is the subliminal focus to this series of works, as the catalyst subject to a transformation of the land—its destruction, displacement of people and wildlife, deforestation, adaption, emptiness, renewal, regrowth, and so on. This project explores those impacts and their deeper implications as results of climate change through a portrayal of a kind of beauty in the face of a much larger, epidemic disaster.

This ongoing series of works documents and builds an expansive narrative around this small, seemingly unthreatening species that somehow managed to survive, showcasing how climate change can and will lead to the imminent downfall of an ecosystem. Adding to this dialog of awareness surrounding environmental sustainability and climate change, and localizing a much larger global issue by bringing to light the specific impacts on a particular region, aims to confront viewers with the contentious realities of anthropocentrism, ecocide, and the effects on the natural world as a direct result of human existence.

right: View from Whistlers Mountain, Jasper National Park, Alberta (2019)