Maine artists head to the Arctic in search of a new frontier
by Bob Keyes
Portland Press Herald
August 13, 2017
They go to bear witness, document change and tell stories.
Driven by a sense of urgency, artists are following in the tradition of Rockwell Kent and going to the Arctic to capture the majesty of the icebergs, the mystery of the landscape and the daily drama of a culture and way of life that feels out of place in a modern world. Others go for political and cultural reasons, to show the world what climate change looks like in its northernmost reaches.
And others just go — for the beauty, the adventure and the opportunity to see something new.
Levesque made a second trip to the Arctic this spring, aboard a sailing vessel. It was a dramatically different experience than his journey aboard the container ship. The Eimskip trip was about the intersection of art and commerce and Portland’s evolution as an international marine terminal. He was interested in the stories of the ships’s crew as much as he was the Arctic environment.
For the recent trip in June, he was on a sailboat among 30 artists and scientists on an Arctic Circle residency, exploring Svalbard and its environs. He imaged a romantic, remote experience, with “pure moments” of connecting with nature. He got some of that, he said. “We saw a lot of glaciers, we saw polar bears, walruses, minke whales, belugas.” He also saw evidence that the Arctic isn’t nearly as remote as it used to be. To the boat’s crew, Levesque’s group of artists and scientists were similar to any other group of ecotourists. “We were just the next group coming through,” he said. “That was very interesting to me.”