Seeing Nature

This post is adapted from remarks made by Paul Allen at the opening of Seeing Nature: Landscape Masterworks from the Paul G. Allen Family Collection at the Portland Art Museum in October 2015. Seeing Nature is a travelling exhibition that has made stops in Washington D.C., Minneapolis, New Orleans, before completing its two-year journey at the Seattle Art Museum in February 2017.

I’m fortunate to have the opportunity to be involved in many fulfilling endeavors. One passion that I don’t always have the opportunity to discuss publicly is my passion for art.

It goes back a long way. When I was young, my parents encouraged me to draw and paint, and I did it a lot. I drew not to achieve specific images, but to explore broader ideas. I spent many happy hours at the University of Washington’s Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture, looking at native American art. The museum made an explicit connection between natural history, art and culture – one that many people overlook – and it had a meaningful influence on me.

Many art collectors build collections for their aesthetic appeal. Some do it for their investment value. But, for me, there’s a third dimension. I believe great art helps us see the world around us a little differently and can often provide a sense of purpose and fresh perspectives.

In the Renaissance, people didn’t draw sharp distinctions between art, science, philosophy and the natural world. They saw them as different strands of the same braid. I try to view things in a similar spirit.

In a sense, that’s what Seeing Nature is all about. Hopefully, it helps us look at the world around us with fresh eyes, and perhaps see it a little differently.

As this exhibit travels our country, I hope it will help people look at art and nature with a renewed sense of emotional connection. And in this age, when our planet’s natural systems are under such pressure, I hope it will also inspire people to renew their commitment to protecting Earth’s natural beauty for generations to come.