Years ago, without having seen one,
I was asked to paint a glacier. The results were not spectacular
as I remember, but the project stirred my imagination. I read
John Muir’s journals and saw how he was led from his
discovery of glacial scrapings in the Sierra Nevada to the
still active glaciers in Alaska, and I went to the Smithsonian
to see the many sketches of icebergs that the Hudson River
painter Frederic Church had done on a trip to Labrador in
search of ice.
It was years later that I arrived at Glacier Bay in Alaska,
“discovered” by Muir in the late 1800s with
the help of the Inuit. My next visit to Alaska took me over
the glaciers of Denali to the Ruth Glacier, where I stayed
in a small cabin for several days to do drawings and oil
studies of the ice formations and the surrounding mountains.
I returned the following year to continue the projects I
had begun, one on a large canvas, which I carried up there
in a mailing tube. In June 2006 an expedition cruise took
me to Norway’s Svalbard Archipelego, and I visited
Iceland’s spectacular Vatnajokul Glacier on my return.
I’m working on paintings from these sites now, and
in May 2007 I will go to Greenland to study the terrain
for new projects in the vicinity of Ilullisat and Upernavik,
sponsored by an artist residency at the Upernavik Museum.
Last year, on the mainland in Norway, I was surprised to
find most arms of glaciers I visited, stunted, suspended
over bare rock. The year before, I had visited Twillingate
in Newfoundland, one of Frederic Church’s destinations,
and which until very recently, has been known for the continuous
parade of icebergs collecting in its harbor. Though it was
June/July, usually a good time to see them, I found not
one bit of ice there.
It is becoming quite clear, first hand, that the melting
is not an accident of one particular season. I’m concerned
about the changes I see, evidence of global warming, and
I’m concerned about man’s part in this. My paintings
are not political statements, but they do come out of my
personal experience. They are from my own vantage point
and express my values and feelings for places, and I bear
witness as an artist.
The pictures on this site were either painted on location,
or inspired by the places I have been. Most are in oil,
although I also work in other media such as pastel, and
more recently in mixed media collage, and photocollage.
The work, usually panoramic in scope, often suggests movement
as well as the spatial panorama.
My first true awareness of nature in process rather than
as fixed phenomena came from a time in the ‘70s spent
working at the Mount Washington Observatory, a weather station
and research center at the summit of the northeast’s
tallest mountain. For this I’m indebted to the Chief
Observer, Guy Gosselin, who hired me while I was still a
graduate student, to work with him on historical displays
for their museum, which was still in its planning stages.
My projects included the glacier painting mentioned above.
Walking the mountains as the displays evolved, unlocked
the secret that we were in but a moment of their existence
. The Presidential Range makes its own weather and walking
up through the forests to the alpine tundra was like travel
into the far north, with dramatic changes in vegetation
and temperature. One could pass from a hot summer day into
a snow storm, as I did on my first visit there. We were
up above treeline where so much bare rock is exposed, rock
spills in evidence, where snow falls in the summer and the
winds blow powerfully enough to shake your soul. From the
summit when the fog lifts one can see out to the ocean in
Portland and out over distant mountains. Up there, life
is fragile and the lichen and mosses, krumholtz and other
plant life common to other alpine zones, take very long
to grow. Thirty years later on Cape Spear in Newfoundland,
I felt an exciting familiarity, and realized I was still
on this same landmass, on the Appalachian range way out
in the Atlantic.
My focus is on the awe inspiring in nature, but I can’t
help but be aware that I’m observing a threatened
landscape. As I encounter problems of pollution and the
melting of glacial ice, I also see that for better or for
worse we are caught in and are creating our own history.
Trying to understand my place in this changing panorama,
I find myself like Muir and many others today, traveling
to the ends of the earth.