Arctic Adventures

The new work that I am getting ready to exhibit at The Holland Project in July is all based on the time I spent in the Arctic Circle in the summer of 2015. I've previously done a little work from all of the amazing footage, images, and experiences that I gathered there but I haven't had time to truly dedicate to it until now. 

From aboard the tall ship Antigua, June 2015

From aboard the tall ship Antigua, June 2015

Almost a year after I returned, I had the opportunity to write a piece for Our Arctic Nation, a year-long blog sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Each week featured a posting from a different state and their connection to the Arctic--I was the representative for Nevada. If you missed the blog, you can read it here: The Art of Arctic Elements Through the Eyes of a Native Nevadan. 

I am excited to get back to the images and video that I did there and address some of the things that I was thinking about while there (I write a bit about this in my post for Our Arctic Nation). It’s intriguing to see how things like travel and these types of experiences influence me and my work. The time spent on that ship with 28 other artists was brief and very concentrated. Yet, because we had no connection to the outside world at all, it felt like a piece out of time, much longer than 2 weeks, otherworldly. The effects can be really subtle and subconscious and not come to the surface for a long time after.

There are the obvious immediate effects like the incredible landscape and the light for 24 hours that makes you crazy. And the story about the polar bear and her cub or seeing blue whales for the first time or skinny dipping in near freezing water near the 80th parallel.

But, it’s the other stuff that comes up—weeks, months or years later that becomes really exciting and valuable as you start to synthesize and process your experiences. They become ingrained and meshed into each other, creating more nuanced and layered connections and meaning.

Of Light and Wind, double-exposed Polaroid, 2015/2017

Of Light and Wind, double-exposed Polaroid, 2015/2017

A lot of my work has to do with human relationship to the environment, how we interact with the environment, how we form those connections, the action of moving through or being in a place. In particular, the idea of mirages is something that I am interested in. I am interested in this because mirages are observable optical phenomena yet the images that they appear to represent are translated by the mind. Not a hallucination but, they are perhaps representative of desire or something else in the observer's psyche.

The light in the Arctic and the expanses of water and snow create ideal conditions for mirages—skewing perception of depth, distance, and scale. These are some of my ideas as I am working on the pieces for my upcoming exhibition.

 

The Story Behind the Photograph

Sunset at Black Rock Point: June 7, 2016, 4:49 pm - 7:56 pm

Sunset at Black Rock Point: June 7, 2016, 4:49 pm - 7:56 pm

While on residency in the Black Rock Desert High Rock Canyon National Conservation Area last June, I traveled out to Black Rock Point to work on a video project. Earlier in the residency, I had found a small playa where I wanted to do some work. It was a clear day as I headed out, stopping along the way to gather some images with my camera.

I made it out to the little playa right around noon and started setting up for my video. The plan was to hang out there making work until sunset when the light would be right for my video. The wind started to pick up and a group of clouds starting moving from the west toward where I was working. They started to gather into a small storm that was moving east and north. I kept my eye on them, thinking they would miss the little playa and blow over. However, within minutes, it started sprinkling. I decided to drive up to higher ground just in case it got worse, which turned out to be a good idea. The rain started to come down harder and, just like in the cartoons, it looked like the storm was just a microcell concentrated right over me. I drove down further to Black Rock Springs where I knew I would have to wait it out. 

The storm over the Black Rock (left) and during the storm at Black Rock Point (right). Notes from my sketchbook: "1:30-ish, pouring rain. Let up briefly for 10 or 15 minutes. Thunder and hail right over Black Rock Point. 2:33, still raining."

The storm over the Black Rock (left) and during the storm at Black Rock Point (right).
Notes from my sketchbook:
"1:30-ish, pouring rain. Let up briefly for 10 or 15 minutes. Thunder and hail right over Black Rock Point. 2:33, still raining."

At that point, the ground was getting saturated and streams of water were making their way down the dirt road, making it impassible. I knew I would have to stay put and wait for the ground to dry enough before I attempted to leave so that I wouldn't get stuck--the playa turns to clay when wet. In the meantime, the storm cleared around 3 pm and the sun mostly returned. It was too wet to get back to the little playa to record video so I set up my tripod and photographed the changing light on Black Rock Point while enjoying the view. I ended up spending the night in my car and had to wait 24 hours before I was able to drive out--even then, it was a little touch-and-go (but that's another story).