Amelia Wiygul: The Trouble with Wilderness

The Trouble with Wilderness
Oil on canvas
36 x 48 in.

This piece references the 1995 essay of the same title by William Cronon: The Trouble with Wilderness. In the essay, Cronon deconstructs the concept of some wild, pristine Garden of Eden that exists separately from humankind. In reality, every inch of the earth has been shaped or affected by human civilization, and even in industrialized life we remain fundamentally connected to nature.
Often in political spheres, the fallacy of humanity and nature being diametrically opposed has been weaponized to push anti-environmental legislation, claiming environmental and economic health are mutually exclusive. As many of us know, they are not. A just transition to renewable energy, sustainable cities, and safe, living-wage jobs is the healthiest, safest, and indeed the only way forward.
As we approach our ever-more precarious future, it is time to start reimagining our relationship to nature, both in concept and policy. In The Trouble With Wilderness, human figures blend into lush foliage, at points being lost and then being found. There is peace in their featurelessness. The foliage supports them from the background and obscures them from the foreground. It’s a vision of nature being reintegrated into both daily urban life and humanity as a whole.