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My work as an artist is committed to ethical inquiry. Currently my work is devoted to the Polar Regions. Over the past three decades I have become intimately connected with a variety of circumpolar areas. They are disappearing and I am haunted at a soul level. The purpose of my work is to invoke the power of a painting to invite the viewer not only to an experience of encounter but an investigative awareness and response to the diverse importance of the polar regions.


My first immersion in the Arctic was on the Bering Sea Coast of Alaska from 1977 to 1980. I lived and worked as a nurse practitioner, frequently visiting the villages of Hooper Bay and Scammon Bay. I returned for summers through 1982. The vast silence and mysterious seasonal arctic light and ice shifts are with me still. The warmth and generosity of the Yupik people I came to know and love will be with me always. I traveled extensively throughout the interior and northern slope communities. At the time my art form was black and white photography. About every 6 months I would use a friend’s darkroom in Fairbanks to develop my film. Never did I think a day would come when the disappearance of the shifting masses of spring ice would summon a raw urgency to the painterly expression of these places.

During the years of 1984 through 1986 I lived in the sub-arctic communities of Grand Rapids and Easterville, Manitoba, Canada with the Swampy Cree and Métis people. I was able to travel north once again into the arctic regions around Thompson and Churchill. It was at that point that added watercolor painting to my art practice.

Upon completion of my Masters of Arts degree in 1988 I was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to study at the Institute of Eskimolgie in Copenhagen, Denmark (1988-1989). This rich academic year of study introduced me to the culture, languages and ecosystems of Greenland. I researched the collected and primarily unknown stories of women angakkut (shamans). This resulted in my manuscript “You Will Cease to Be Powerless”. This year also included photographing the Yupik Mask Collection at the Dalhem Museum in Berlin and the Siberian/Tungat/Sami collections at the National Museum in Helsinki, Finland.

In 1999 I began to devote myself full-time to my studio practice. In my current group of paintings, Wit(h)nessing the Arctic, I am using my b/w photographs of the late 1970’s on the Bering Sea Coast as points of entry for my work.

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Irene F. Sullivan
71 Aspen Lane
Coal Creek Canyon, Golden, Colorado, 80403, USA
Tel: 303-642-7104
Email: mfsullivan7@gmail.com
Website: www.irenefsullivan.com

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