Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Polar bear and Aurora Borealis
A relaxed polar bear sits back in the snow and admires the Aurora Borealis, the Northern Lights, in this lino block print. The linocut is printed in a gradation of black through cobalt blue to white, on Japanese kozo (or mulberry) paper, 11 inches by 14 inches (28 cm by 35.6 cm). There are seven prints in the edition.
I've been thinking a lot about the poles, and animals in the remarkable environment of the high arctic (and antarctic). A second theme in my work has been light in various forms. How could I resist the beauty of the aurora, where cosmic rays come to play with the geomagnetic field?
Did you know that polar bears are the world's largest land carnivore? They are beautiful and deserve to thrive and see a healthy, robust habitat, much more so then they have of late.... but make no mistake, polar bears are not cute. Polar bears are deadly. Should you ever meet one, be sure to see it first - your only other chance is to look too skinny to be a seal or have enough fat content to be worth the effort. It's not like polar bears are interested in eating people; they are not. But, a well-clothed Arctic explorer might look like a mammal with a layer of blubber. They are the reason that earth scientists I know, who've worked in the high arctic, have to take a rifle, even to the outhouse (which is open on top to better scan the horizon for fast-moving, camouflaged, predators). Furthermore, like other bears, they are smart and curious. There is a reason they are called Ursus maritimus; they spend most of their time at sea. They've been known to board vessels and ships in the Arctic ocean need to post a bear watch. Sometimes I wonder why I am so keen to get myself sent to the Arctic, but I'm not completely naive. I know hypothermia isn't the only risk.
This print is actually inspired by the aurora and the potential for making more light boxes... I have the guts of a second light box in progress, which will use this print, two types of rgb LEDs, and gels to try and capture the feeling of the Northern Lights. I considered using electroluminescent (EL) paper... which I may still explore. EL materials are often that eerie pale green, and since they need an inverter, they make a sort of humming noise which is very apt. When I've witnessed the aurora, there has sometimes been an associated crackling sound.
I remember my father, who grew up in Northern Ontario (both closer to the pole and further from light pollution) being astounded to learn that his children had only seen the Northern Lights a handful of times. He's lived in Toronto for almost 40 years and might have noticed their absence. Though Victoria isn't that much further north, I saw them several times a year when I was there - including when I was at sea. The most spectacular display however, was when I was in Georgian Bay as a teenager. I'll never forget it.