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Marcia Clark contact the artist contact the artist
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.

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Marcia Clark
Email: ingerclark@earthlink.net
Web: www.marciaclarkpaintings.com
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