Art exhibit to display at inspiration source — Antarctica

Photo courtesy of Natalie Graff. Natalie Graff of Oregon found inspiration from a scientific field site in Antarctica to create this otherworldly mixed-media art piece called “Morning Clouds Over Tent City.”

An international exhibit of artwork called “Beauty to the Core” will meet its inspiration in Antarctica this January. The traveling collection of 17 pieces, which includes paintings, a video installation and mixed media art, will appear in open air near a two-mile borehole in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet that served as the artists’ muse.

The artwork is part of the Antarctic Art Contest. University of Alaska Fairbanks glaciologist Erin Pettit and her team of researchers created the contest to raise awareness of scientific studies at WAIS Divide, a research site of the National Science Foundation. The exhibit will also include pieces from two professional artists who have created science-inspired artwork based on their travels to Antarctica — Anna McKee and Maria Coryell-Martin.

“We wanted to bring the art out here to the place that inspired it, because the art also inspires the scientists and the science out here,” said Pettit. “The landscape here is flat and white. We have to use our imagination visualize the processes going on beneath our feet, so the art also represents that part of the scientific process.”

Scientists and engineers drilled a core at WAIS Divide more than two miles deep to study the ice sheet’s climate history during the past 68,000 years. Pettit and her research team are studying the ice sheet through the borehole to look at how processes like climate change have shaped the arrangement and evolution of the ice crystals.

Video screens will be set up on the white canvas that is Antarctica to play “Defrost,” a video installation that professional artist Francois Quévillon of Canada created and entered in the Antarctic Art Contest. See the installation on Vimeo at

WAIS Divide is the second stop for the traveling exhibit. It debuted in the northern hemisphere at the UA Museum of the North in Fairbanks, Alaska, before traveling more than 11,000 miles to Antarctica.

After WAIS Divide, the exhibit will move into McMurdo Station, the U.S. Antarctic research center. It will then show for a year at the airport terminal in Christchurch, New Zealand, which serves as the hub for airplanes going to and from Antarctica .

Photo by Nancy Hines Anna McKee made this etching, “Firn Ocean,” in 2011 with inspiration from an ice core drilled from the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

Below are the categories, the artists and their works from the Antarctic Art Contest:

  • Secondary student — Laura Lira of California with “Years of Ice,” a watercolor
  • Secondary student — Cayley Buckner of Florida with photographs
  • Current or recent undergraduate student — Natalie Graff of Oregon with “Morning Clouds Over Tent City,” a mixed-media drawing
  • Emerging artist  — Clairissa Stephens of Oregon with “Air Archive,” a silverpoint, silver leaf and watercolor
  • Professional — Francois Quévillon of Canada with “Defrost,” a video installation
  • Community — Lucy East of Australia with “Lose Sight of the Shore,” a cyanotype print on Wenzhou rice paper
  • Community — Pauline Thomas of Alaska with “The Cold as Ice Blues,” a paper collage
  • Community — Sandy Winfree, Robert Winfree and Ruth Kalarek of Alaska with “A World of Change,” a quilt