Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass

There’s a saying that necessity is the mother of invention. April Surgent discovered that being trapped by ice at a research station in Antarctica for the better part of two months required a little flexibility and ingenuity when it came to fulfilling her artistic vision.

The Seattle-based artist traveled to Palmer Station last year with support from the National Science Foundation’s Antarctic Artists and Writers Program. The coastal research station, accessible only by ship, was surrounded by unusually heavy sea ice well into the Southern Hemisphere summer.

Picture of a glass engraving.

Photo Courtesy: April Surgent
A cameo engrave glass piece entitled, Nine Sunrises Over the Carpentry Shop.
Long-exposure photograph.

Photo Credit: April Surgent
A long exposure pinhole photograph of sunrise and sunset, taken from Dec. 1-7, 2013.

That meant Surgent, an artist who engraves glass, and the scientists doing research out of Palmer Station had limited opportunities to visit the nearby islands where penguins, seals and other Antarctic fauna breed and brood during the summer months of November and December.

Surgent normally takes digital photographs that she later uses as subjects for her glass engravings. And she ended up capturing thousands of digital images around the tip of Anvers Island where Palmer Station sits at the foot of an enormous glacier called the Marr Ice Piedmont.

But she also took the opportunity to experiment further with long-exposure pinhole photography, a technique that uses a simple camera without a lens that allows light through a small aperture. Light passes through the pinhole and projects an inverted image on the opposite side of the camera onto light sensitive photo paper. Some of her exposures lasted for weeks at a time, sometimes creating surreal, almost funhouse-mirror-like images of the station and its surrounding landscape.

“It’s really a different way of looking at the surrounding environment,” Surgent explains about pinhole photography. “It’s a unique approach to seeing the way the world is and looking at time measured through light in a very different way than we see it in our mass of digital photos that we collect these days. A poem, rather than a definition.”

Surgent concedes that changing the focus of her work was “scary and intimidating. … You never know how your work is going to be received.”

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Source:: Antarctic Sun Featured Articles

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