17 Expeditions: Antarctica. Artwork by J.J. L’Heureux
through April 2, 2018
Moorpark College Art Gallery
By Jennifer Susan Jones
Barren, void, well below freezing, uninhabitable. Antarctica may seem like a distant place of mystery to those who’ve never researched our southernmost continent. Encircled by the Southern Ocean (or, Antarctic Ocean) this ivory setting of sea, ice, and sky, consists of only two seasons: summer and winter (the resulting photo-periods being six months of daylight in summer and six months of darkness in winter).
If you are looking to catch an artist’s glimpse of this landscape, Moorpark College Gallery is featuring the Antarctic photographs (‘Ross Ice Shelf’ and ‘Faces from the Southern Ocean’ series) and abstract ‘Bergy Bits’ paintings of J.J. L’Heureux through April 2, 2018.
A multi-faceted explorer, adventurer, photographer, and abstract painter, L’Heureux first traveled to Antarctica eighteen years ago and has returned every year since, amassing stunning photographs of the various faces of the continent, including its animal life, glaciers, ocean, mountain peaks, and ice shelves. L’Heureux, who has shown her work extensively throughout the United States, has traveled via diverse means to reach this extreme destination, including on board a Russian icebreaker, on adventure cruises, and on her own in a small motor sailer, the Golden Fleece.
Located at the southernmost tip of our planet, temperatures on the Antarctica continent are the coldest found on planet Earth, the numbers for winter averaging a frigid minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. Having experienced an environment so unlike anything they’re accustomed to, visitors to Antarctica describe it as other-worldly, or alien, akin to walking on another planet.
In an excerpt from a statement about her ‘Ross Ice Shelves’ series, L’Heureux writes the following about the massive, two hundred thousand square mile structure: “Wind and cold are its dominant messages because there are no sounds of industrial society here, just silences except for those wind and sea expressions punctuated by cracking-booming ice as it breaks off into the sea.” These photographs showcase the pristine power, the crispness, the varied textures and patterns found in a nature-sculpted wonder, one that resembles (at least in pictures) a massive brick of ice-blue cheese, cleaved by the hand of some invisible giant.
The ice sheets of Antarctica can reach an unfathomable thickness of four miles, so changes in the conditions surrounding them (such as increases in our climate) influence the integrity of these formations. A satellite used by NASA, called the ‘Ice, Cloud, and Land Elevation Satellite,’ is measuring changes in the size of Antarctica’s ice sheets, thus aiding NASA to understand how changes in Earth’s atmosphere and climate affect polar ice and global sea levels. And as we’ve been warned (but don’t always understand), it’s the melting of these ice sheets that may impact sea levels all over the world.
A ‘Bergy Bit’ is defined as a large mass of glacier ice or a smallish iceberg floating in the sea – an idea that may conjure images of loneliness and isolation. But in the company of these eerily solo, seemingly sterile glaciers, icebergs, and snowfields, L’Heureux is inspired: “ice is alive,” she says, “with color that shifts and refracts light as I depict in these paintings.”
L’Heureux is deeply concerned about the environment and its inhabitants. In her ‘Faces of the Southern Ocean’ series, she introduces her viewers to a cast of animal personages, including birds, sea lions, and penguins, who peer out from their portraits with charm and innate curiosity, their portrayal illustrating the artist’s sincere fondness for these wondrous creatures.
L’Heureux stated during the opening of this exhibition, that part of her impetus for photographing a particular species of endangered sea lion was to capture their images before they die out (the species has since made a bit of a comeback). Seeing the unique, regal, and sometimes comical faces of these animals – taken close up by the artist, without the use of a zoom lens – connects us to them as we peer into their eyes, thus initiating in us a greater concern for their well-being. This connection, in turn, may aid us in taking steps toward living in a more earth-friendly way.
With seventeen excursions to Antarctica under her belt, one may assume L’Heureux is ready to hang up her parka. Not the case, says the artist: “It is my intention to find additional venues to explore different parts of this vast and inspiring place. The art will follow.”
J.J. L’Heureux’s exhibition of photographs and paintings is located in the Moorpark College Art Gallery in the Administration Building at Moorpark College, 7075 Campus Road, Moorpark, California 93021. Gallery Hours are Monday through Thursday: 9am – 9pm, and Friday: 9am to noon. For more information contact: Erika Lizée, Gallery Director at firstname.lastname@example.org. More information about the artist can be found at her website, http://www.jjlheureux.com.