News Animals Artist's Digitally Altered Nature Paintings Speak to Humanity's 'Age of Loneliness' These diorama-like works speak about humanity's alienation from nature. By Kimberley Mok Kimberley Mok Twitter Writer McGill University Cornell University Kimberley Mok is a former architect who has been covering architecture and the arts for Treehugger since 2007. Learn about our editorial process Published December 1, 2021 04:00PM EST Fact checked by Haley Mast Fact checked by Haley Mast LinkedIn Harvard University Extension School Haley Mast is a freelance writer, fact-checker, and small organic farmer in the Columbia River Gorge. She enjoys gardening, reporting on environmental topics, and spending her time outside snowboarding or foraging. Topics of expertise and interest include agriculture, conservation, ecology, and climate science. Learn about our fact checking process Jim Naughten Share Twitter Pinterest Email News Environment Business & Policy Science Animals Home & Design Current Events Treehugger Voices News Archive Visitors to institutions like New York City's American Museum of Natural History get to take a look at nature—not by actually being in the midst of it, but by peering into the many large dioramas on display. Featuring collections of glassy-eyed, taxidermied animals and other specimens, these exhibits were once one way that throngs of city dwellers and tourists could catch a glimpse of elusive wildlife before televisions and nature documentaries were widespread—albeit in a stiffly curated (and sometimes controversial) way. These old-school dioramas are thankfully being revamped at a number of such museums around the world, but they point to the underlying detached relationship between modern humans and nature. Hinting at that strained relationship, and playing upon the kitschy diorama theme is photographic artist Jim Naughten, who in his latest series of digitally retouched works depicts rhinos, manatees and primates in polychromatically-altered habitats. Jim Naughten According to the United Kingdom-based Naughten, the series is titled "Eremozoic," in reference to biologist E.O. Wilson's assertion that humans are now living through a terrible "age of loneliness": "[Wilson] has suggested that we are now entering the Earth’s Eremozoic period, which he characterizes as an age of loneliness following mass extinctions caused by human activity. In contrast with the more commonly used term Anthropocene (or ‘age of man’), Wilson’s classification addresses the history we are living through from a broader ecological perspective, to recognize humanity’s essential and inextricable connectedness with other forms of life on the planet." Jim Naughten Naughten, who is a traditionally trained painter, initially worked with oil paints before eventually taking up photography later in art school. Naughten wound up combining both disciplines and now works with digital tools like Adobe Photoshop to create digital paintings that are at once both alluring and illusory. Jim Naughten Recently exhibited at London's Grove Square Galleries, the Eremozoic series features digitally retouched images of wildlife in bright pink and blue landscapes. The juxtaposition of these elements in these works allude to the deceptive fabrications behind the phenomenon of dioramas, says Naughten: "[My message with these works is that] I’m questioning our rose-tinted, idealized view of the natural world (and suggesting that it’s largely fictional: wildlife is in serious decline, with 30,000 species going extinct every year from human activity) and secondly to highlight our disconnection from the natural world. For almost 99 % of human history, as foragers and hunter gatherers, we were directly connected to, and very much part of the natural world. Since the advent of farming, we have been working against nature and have become almost entirely disconnected from it: it now happens elsewhere, on television, nature programs, zoos and safari parks." Jim Naughten To create these works, Naughten takes photographs and then goes through a lengthy post-production process where layers and layers of colors and edits are added to produce a painterly effect. Presenting scenes that are simultaneously realistic, yet unfamiliar and unnatural, Naughten says that his digital paintings are a kind of "archaeological enquiry" that "reanimates and explores historical subject matter." Jim Naughten In this case, Naughten's two-dimensional dioramas explore the long process of collective alienation from nature that has brought us to this point of the climate crisis and mass extinctions. The chimerical color palette of the images seems to suggest the viewer stands apart from the scenes, separate and looking through a strangely distorted lens. Jim Naughten As Naughten tells This Is Colossal, these vivid distortions serve a distinct purpose: "I’m interested in how, in the evolutionary blink of an eye, humans have come to dominate and overwhelm the planet and how far our relationship with the natural world has fundamentally and dangerously shifted from that of our ancestors. I hope the work will create awareness and discourse about this disconnection, our fictionalized ideas about nature and possibilities for positive change." Jim Naughten The idea is to raise questions about our fractured relationship with nature, and to prompt action, says Naughten: "I think we all have a role in tackling the climate change and biodiversity loss if we want a sustainable world to live in." To see more, visit Jim Naughten.