Sunday, November 10, 2013

The Arctic Circle Residency

Laura Petrovich-Cheney, Nov. 10, 2013
In the summer of 2011, while in Jennie Shanker’s Professional Practice class at Moore College of Artand Design, I had to begin an application for a  residency as a practice for my professional life as an artist. After hours of researching and daydreaming, I selected the most adventurous and seemingly improbable residency – one that took place in a 160-foot tall ship, named The Antigua, that travels the waters in the Arctic Circle. The Arctic Circle residency takes place in the international territory of Svalbard, a mountainous archipelago just 10 degrees from the North Pole. This residency brings together international artists of all disciplines, scientists, architects, and educators who collectively explore remote and fascinating destinations aboard a sailing vessel.
The Antigua in front of a glacier

Finally, on Sept. 27, 2013, around 5:00, I said goodbye to my cell phone, Wi-Fi and all connections to the known world, and in the company of 25 other artists, embarked on an adventure that will undoubtedly leave a live long impression on my imagination and heart. 
Sailing on the Antigua

My project for this residency was to walk and only leave footprints- impermanent artifacts in order to remind us that we can explore, engage with, and seek out the beauty and mysteries of the natural world, all the while mindful that we are guests and stewards of a planet worth saving for current and future generations to experience.  I documented my walks with a one-word poem. I also collected 4 large cases of Arctic trash while on my walks that will later become a sculpture and/or installation.

Many of the artists on board photographed the ice for later paintings. Some did video work, time-lapse photography, performances, and some even recorded the sounds of the ice for their research. Overall, there were two composers; one poet and the others were visual artists. 26 artists were chosen out of 320 applicants and 14 nationalities represented.  In addition to myself, there were two other Philadelphia artists on board – Terry Adkins and Diane Burko

Laura Petrovich-Cheney and Diane Burko

As many of know, Diane Burko was the 2011 recipient of the WCA Lifetime Achievement Award. 

The trip was not without its dangers. Polar bears, seasickness, rugged terrain abounded. In fact, while on land, we were guarded by three woman guards and one dog. Each guard had a rifle and was on constant look out for bears. We saw three bears- from very safe distances, lots of seals, reindeer and one Arctic fox.
Arctic Fox

Sarah and Nemo, our guards against polar bears

I went on this trip with a purpose to document my footprints and I left with an intimate meditation of time and place. The images that I captured will unravel the complexities and contradictions of this extreme environment and our relationship with place. Aaron O'Connor was our director and I cannot thank him enough for this wonderful opportunity.
Magdalena Fjord

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