Diane Burko

Diane Burko

INSTAAR Affiliate

  • Artist


  • MFA: University of Pennsylvania, Graduate School of Fine Arts, 1969
  • BA: Skidmore College, 1966


Burko locates her practice at the intersection of art and science. In 2006, her concern for the future of our environment and issues of climate change led her to develop series of ongoing projects. She develops visual strategies in paintings and photography using historical comparisons of global glacial change through repeat photography, Landsat maps, and other visual data to help explain earth science to the public. Her work confronts issues of geological and chronological timeā€”past, present, and future.


Diane Burko’s art focuses on monumental geological phenomena. To that end, she has investigated locations on the ground and in the air from open-door helicopters and planes with cameras and sketchpads. Traveling from the temperate zones of America to Western Europe, from rain forests to glaciers and active volcanoes below the equator, her art merges a vision that is at once panoramic, intimate and provocative.

Born in Brooklyn, in 1945, Burko graduated Skidmore College in 1966 with a BS in art history and painting. In 1969, she earned an MFA in painting from the University of Pennsylvania. Burko was a professor at Community College of Philadelphia from 1969-2000, also teaching at Princeton University, ASU, and PAFA. In 1974, she founded FOCUS: Philadelphia Focuses on Women in the Visual Arts. From 1976 to 2012 she was represented by the Locks Gallery in Philadelphia. She is now represented by LewAllen in Santa Fe and Cindy Lisica in Houston. A 1977 flight with James Turrell over the Grand Canyon inspired Burko’s first aerial photographs of the landscape, establishing her lifelong process of securing visual material. In 1989, the Lila Wallace Foundation awarded Burko a six-month residency in Giverny, France. In 1993, she had a residency at the Rockefeller Study and Conference Center in Bellagio. Burko won a $200,000 Public Art Commission for three monumental canvases installed in the Marriott Hotel in Philadelphia. In 2000, a $50,000 Leeway prize funded a project on volcanoes, enabling her to travel to Hawaii, Italy and Iceland. In 2011, she was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the WCA. In 2013, she participated in the Arctic Circle residency to Svalbard, supported by a grant from the Independence Foundation.

Burko’s practice (since 2006) at the intersection of art and science focuses on issues of climate change. Originally basing her imagery on research and visual data from scientists, she soon moved to bear witness directly in the Polar regions. In her painting projects, such as Politics of Snow and Polar Investigations she explores visual strategies, translating data into imagery.  In her recent photo projects, Deep Time and Elegy, that effort continues more metaphorically and abstractly. She sees melting glaciers as a key indicator of climate change. Before sailing around Svalbard in 2013 she joined a team of geologists in the Northern most research station in the world: Ny-Ålesund, where she flew and landed on top of glaciers for two days. In February and March 2017 Diane explored melting glaciers in New Zealand’s southern Alps as well as rainforests and the Barrier Reef in Australia.

Public engagement is integral to her practice—she appears on panels and colloquium on art and science, speaks to school children, think tanks, Conservancy groups and professional conferences such as the AGU and GSA and at the Academy of Natural Sciences. Her most recent talks down under in 2017 were at International Cryosphere Conference in Wellington NZ, Victoria University and the Sydney and Queensland Schools of Art in Australia. This October she will be attending the Arctic Circle Assembly in Iceland.

From May 4 to September 30, 2017, the Walton Arts Center will feature her solo exhibition: Glacial Shifts, Changing Perspectives: Bearing Witness to Climate Change as the visual component to their Artosphere Festival. Next March Rowan University Art will feature an exhibition titled Diane Burko: States of Water, along with a panel on climate change.

She is about to begin a new multi-media project to take on the dire issue of our disappearing barrier reefs in America, with a musician/composer, videographer and scientist.  Their initial expeditions will be to Molokai and American Samoa. Site: www.kaiapapa.com

Read "Climate Art: More and Better with Time," featuring Burko on Yale Climate Connections, July 25, 2017.

Listen to "Let's Talk about the Weather" podcast, July 14, 2017.

Listen to an interview on NPR affiliate station KUAF, May 9, 2017.

Read Diane's 2015 blog from the high Arctic, Polar Investigations.

Read a blog post, "Diane Burko: Visualizing Arctic Transitions," September 4, 2014.

Listen to a podcast from WHYY The Pulse, March 21, 2014.

Current and recent exhibitions

Environmental Impact, Hofstra University Museum of Art

ENDANGERED, Cindy Lisica Gallery, Houston

Glacial Shifts, Changing Perspectives: Bearing Witness to Climate Change, Walton Arts Center, Fayetteville (see the associated book)

Polaris: Northern Explorations in Contemporary Art, Michener Art Museum

Art and Climate Change at Karl and Helen Burger Gallery, Kean University

Sensing Change Exhibition at Chemical Heritage Foundation

See a public television feature, Friday Arts, about Sensing Change.

Read an e-book about Seeing Glacial Time—Climate Change in the Arctic at Tufts University.