“AntARTica: Exploring Art & Science at the Bottom of the World,” will be exhibited at the Tannery Pond Community Center in North Creek NY, March 30 – April 24, 2013.
Come and witness the fascinating collaboration of artist Laura Von Rosk (painting); Dr. Sam Bower (biologist and painter); Hilary Hudson (documentary filmmaker), and Henry Kaiser (musician), as they present their art and research together on Antarctica, a spot of Earth well-known to few, on Saturday, March 30!
We interviewed nationally acclaimed artist Laura Von Rosk, an experienced landscape artist, on her recent expedition to Antarctica, where she joined Dr. Bowser’s research team and used this experience to create a new series of paintings, drawings, and prints. That work, together with the research and works of her traveling companions, will be presented in “AntARTica: Exploring Art & Science at the Bottom of the World.”
1. What sort of research were you assisting with in Antarctica?
The focus of Dr. Sam Bowser’s work is foraminifera – singe celled organisms living on the ocean floor. As Sam says, “Foraminifera (“forams” for short) are a diverse and extremely abundant group of single-celled critters that play an important role in the marine food web. The most familiar ones build hard shells made of calcium carbonate, which buffer atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (in a nutshell- by turning the gas into rock, thus moderating Earth’s climate). So in the context of global climate change, it’s important that we learn everything we can about their basic biology. The ones living at our study site in Antarctica gather mineral particles and cement them together by secreting unique adhesives, which we think might be useful in medicine or biotechnology. The specimens we collect are huge – some can fit in your palm – and are easy to study in the lab…”
2. Was it too difficult to paint in the extremely cold temperatures?
I was hired as a Research Assistant and Dive Tender. There was too much to do within a limited time window, so I could not afford to paint. But I expected to work in the studio after returning from the trip!
3. Are there any differences in the art you created of Antarctica and the paintings of
constructed landscapes that are your trademark?
In some ways yes, and in many ways, no. One difference is the palette used in this work has very little warm earth tones or green. I really enjoyed working with a limited palette of cool colors, like blue and purple. There are many shades of “white.” Sometimes having such limits helps you think in new ways.
4. What can we expect to see on Saturday, March 30th at your presentation and gallery reception for Exhibition AntARTica?
Sam and I will give a talk about what it’s like working at New Harbor, Antarctica, as we collect and research foraminifera. Sam will explain the importance of these little-known creatures in our environment, and I’ll talk mainly about living there. Together, we will show a bunch of photos and a short film, with some time for Q & A. In the exhibition, I will have a series of paintings based on the Antarctic landscape; Sam will show watercolor paintings of foraminifera (the subject of his research); diver Henry Kaiser provided an underwater video of life under the ice; and filmmaker Hilary Hudson made a time-lapse video of the Antarctic landscape above the ice.
5. Describe a typical day for your group in Antarctica.
There is never a typical day in Antarctica! Each day was different, but the Team always meets at breakfast to go through the plans for the day. If we are melting a dive hole (earlier in the season), we set a schedule of tasks to be performed by each person. Some days we prepare for a dive near camp, other days we have to ride skidoos to a secondary camp, pack up all supplies, and sometimes even camp there overnight. Later in the season I spent more time in the lab sorting and picking for the specimens from sediment that the divers collected. Every day there was a variety of camp maintenance tasks – changing propane tanks, rotating the solar panels, chipping away at dive holes that may have iced over, keeping camp clean and organized, and re-fueling equipment (skidoos, six wheeler, generator, etc.). And then there’s an occasional wind storm to provide real excitement!
6. What is something about Antarctica you would have to visit there to appreciate?
They say it is the “Coldest, Windiest, Driest Place on Earth” – I would not doubt that. It is also very quiet, except for the sound of cracking, shifting ice, occasional strong winds flapping the tent blanket and flags, and sometimes you can hear Weddell seals calling when you put your ear to the sea ice. There is little to smell. The light always changes, since the sun never really sets in the summer, but just circles the horizon. Putting all of that together in your head just doesn’t match the reality of being there.
7. Where do your ideas or inspiration come from and how did they lead you on an expedition to Antarctica?
Inspiration comes in different ways – looking at art through history, memories of places I’ve been to or lived in, trying to create a new kind of space/place, and sometimes mixing all that together. Through other work we’ve done in the past, I approached Sam about joining his team, and he saw something in my artwork and ethos that led to the invitation to join his group.
8. Tell us what kind of unique collaboration has come from a biologist (Sam Bowser); a painter (yourself); a documentary filmmaker (Hilary Hudson); and a musician (Henry Kaiser) working together to pull of such an extraordinary project?
The primary, most important reason for all of us going to Antarctica was to participate and help in Dr. Bowser’s research on foraminifera. They are fascinating creatures. While all of us recognize their importance and beauty, the work resulting from the trip branched off in different directions for each of us. Hilary documented the trip and research work on film, Henry filmed the underwater environment they inhabit…and Sam says he continues to learn how to “see and think” through collaborations with artists. It sounds like a weird mix, but it works – and government funding agencies are recognizing its value in educating the public.
9. Is there a reason behind keeping all of your paintings small (about 12 inches)?
I like the intimacy of this scale – in the right setting, the work can fill your field of vision, like looking through a window or a porthole. Oftentimes this scale works when you are trying to create the sense of deep and expansive space.
10. Can we expect any other fascinating expeditions from this group in the future?
Dr. Bowser will continue his research on foraminifera, and hopefully that will lead him to Antarctica again (he has been there over 20 times since 1984!). Henry frequently travels to Antarctica to film for various other science research teams. Hilary has a number of projects in the works – which include working on a research vessel with Ocean Exploration Trust Foundation. I continue to work in the studio on paintings related to this experience – some are larger in scale, and some in new media. We hope to expand on this exhibition, possibly inviting other collaborators in the mix. Sam and I have visited over 10 schools, from K-12 to University level, discussing the trip and the research – and more visits are planned for the future. Finally, Sam has offered to help me train as a diver. If that works out, who knows what sorts of “seascapes” might inspire future work…
On March 30, 2013 at 4 PM, biologist Sam Bowser and artist Laura Von Rosk will share their experience of working together in Antarctica, and discuss how artists and scientists can inspire each other, as well as how they can work together and augment each other’s thoughts and ideas.
At 5 PM, following their presentation, there will be an opening reception for the exhibition – “AntARTica: Exploring Art & Science at the Bottom of the World.”
If you live in or are visiting the Adirondack region, be sure to check out the exhibit, which will run from Saturday, March 30 – Wednesday, April 24, 2013 at the Tannery Pond Community Center on Main Street in North Creek NY. It will feature paintings by Von Rosk, as well as research and watercolor paintings by Dr. Bowser, video work by Hilary Hudson, and music by Henry Kaiser. For more information, call (518) 251-5751