In August of 2014 I was honored and privileged to be a team member of Dark Snowʼs terminal rotation of the season in the ablation belt of Greenlandʼs Ice Cap. This would not be of particular note, except that I am not a scientist, but an artist.
Well, maybe not just any artist. I like to think that I have one foot in the world of science, and that one of my roles is to attempt to bridge the gaps between the two disciplines. I believe that the flash of creativity— the “something” where there was nothing— is identical in process in science and art. Indeed, to me, at their best both are derived from the same approach: looking very, very closely at the world, and then making some kind of interpretative sense of it. Of course there are mediocre practitioners of both, who create science about science or art about art, or other lacks of inspiration, but that is inevitable in any human endeavor.
My residence with Project Dark Snow was my fourth polar sojourn. When the NSF sent me in 1999 to The Ice (Antarctica) I became the first sculptor from any country to be sent to the “last continent” (7 weeks). They sent me again in 2006 (4 weeks). I also spent the last rotation of 2001 on Canadaʼs largest icebreaker (Louis S. St-Laurent) (5 weeks). All of these trips included a significant airborne component, in fixed and rotary wing aircraft.
On the Greenland Cap I assisted with the science work, but I also engaged in my usual observations when in the field. I get asked frequently if I sculpt on these trips: of course not. I am out there as a researcher, gathering “data” in a manner somewhat parallel to what the science folks do. For them, the data will be analyzed and interpreted back at the lab, and for me there is plenty of time to carve, weld and grind when back at my studios. On ice I photograph, sketch, observe, make notes, converse. It is imperative to keep an open mind: it is very often the unexpected that turns out to be the real prize.
After these and other trips to nourish my work, at first I am artistically stunned. Slowly, some art begins, usually fairly illustrative since I am still in thrall to the majesties I have witnessed; often this takes the form of works on paper, but not this time. Somehow, sheet marble called, and seemed a logical first step. Eventually, LED illumination wormed into things as well. Gradually, as a bit of time and labor pass, I slowly am able to inject metaphorical meaning into the work, and as it thus matures I become more and more comfortable applying my signature.
In every case, this visual, intellectual, metaphorical infusion is added to everything previous, and the entire additive structure of all my trips and other nourishment becomes enriched.
I hope that the provided images show this progression, consequent over more than a year, a normal time for these gellings to occur.
I position my work at the intersection of two fault lines: that between art and science, and that between mankind and the natural world. I have found natural ice formations to be a rich source for my endeavors in sheet metals, glass, illumination, stones, and more.
I have been fortunate to be able to witness ice in its own ‘habitat’. In 1999, Courtesy of the National Science Foundation, I became the first sculptor from any country to be sent to Antarctica. In 2001, I deployed to the high Arctic with the Canadian Coast Guard in the Lancaster Sound area. In 2006 I deployed again to the The Ice — Antarctica. These trips (and others I have organized privately) have been absolutely critical to my output. I have found that I cannot work just from the photography of others; without personally being confronted by these phenomena, I can’t insert what to me is absolutely central to any acceptable art: emotional content.
I am invited to join Dark Snow summer 2014. This is a bullseye for me. I have seen plenty of imagery, in the course of research, of the supraglacial lakes, rivers, and the moulins that drain them down to bedrock far, far below. I see this as a cast of characters that I can use to create metaphorical meanings and interest in my work. I have only one life, and I will not use it to create pretty shiny things: I demand real meaning from what goes out the doors of my studios.