90 Degree Draft: Art Amidst Science in Antarctica

by Elise Engler


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USA Projects funding would be used to facilitate the designing and printing of two separate artist’s books made as the result of being a recipient of the National Science Foundation Antarctica Artists and Writers Program residency in the Austral summer (our winter) of 2009/10.

The book, entitled Ninety-Degree Draft: Art Amidst Science in Antarctica, would include images of art made in the Antarctic and upon return including the ten 30 x 42” drawings, that chronicle the entire journey from application, to pre-departure preparations, to travel to “The Ice” and the 2 months spent there.  These drawings show camping at two penguin colonies, and at the Lake Hoare Field Camp in the Antarctic Dry Valleys, four days at the South Pole as well as the time spent at the central U.S. research base, McMurdo Station. The drawings have the same painted gouache background - the white shape of Antarctica on a blue field. Hundreds of color pencil images (drawn from photos, videos and drawings made onsite) and a comprehensive hand-written text cover the surface of the drawings, creating a time-line of the expedition. The drawings and text provide the viewer an insight into Antarctica---from the daily life to the science to the landscape itself. There are drawings of the native species (penguins, seals, skuas and whales), of the various forms of habitation from tent to dorm, drawings of the scientists at work and of the equipment they use, scenes of daily life and of the views from the many planes and helicopter windows as I travelled around the continent. All the other art made there is depicted on these drawings as well. There will be additional text as well.

 The smaller book is a 30 page accordion book- each page 6.25” x 4.25.” The book contains gouache and colored pencil drawings of the views out of windows of buildings all over McMurdo Station. The images in the book have already been scanned and are ready for printing. I am currently researching printers who could maintain the accordion format as well as thinking how to incorporate some text.

My past work has often been about providing the public a view of inaccessible places from depicting the contents of over 60 women’s pocketbooks, to a large series of drawings on the subject of what our taxes purchase. I have often been a “fly on the wall” as I have drawn onsite from the offices of venture capitalists (where I was commissioned to draw desk contents) to the laboratories of the Darwin Foundation on the Galapagos Islands. The work has morphed from the more personal (when I did “Everything I Own”, a drawing of my 13,127 possessions) to this work that gives the viewer a glimpse of this largely inaccessible continent including an introduction to some of the scientific research happening there

This Antarctica series functions as an art installation when hung on the wall but the repeated response is that everyone wants to read the entire written aspect of the work—therefore it needs to be a book! USA projects would provide the resources for making this possible. The funds would pay for hiring a consultant to aid in the design of the books and printing an edition of the books.  I would like to have the books done in time for an exhibition that opens in January 2013.

Thank you so much for your support!




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