NOTES from an ICE JOURNAL:
At the age of seven, I felt secure enough in my draftsmanship,
and my desire to accompany Admiral Byrd on his next
expedition to the Antarctic, to write to the famous
explorer and enclose some examples of my artistic ability.
I figured the Expedition could tolerate no excess baggage,
so in addition to my drawings, I pointed out that my
presence would take up little space. In my excitement
I thought that every well fitted expedition must require
a good draftsman, like me, to record all the day to
day adventures of surviving in the Polar region. Later
in life, my great admiration for the paintings of Doctor
Edward Wilson of the two Scott expeditions, only served
to prove my earlier premise.
Eventually, the Admiral replied to
me on official U.S. Department of the Navy stationary.
I was graciously informed that the great explorer admired
my drawings. He also acknowledged that any worthy expedition
would go wanting for the lack of a good artist - draftsman.
But, technology was moving forward, as it always does.
This time he had photographers aboard, and the ship
was full up. "Maybe on a later expedition..."
the Admiral wrote. My imagination flared, eventually
becoming the ember of a life long dream.
The Admiral passed away in 1957.
And I have been to Antarctica. But early dreams do not
pass away so easily. Quite often they wait in the mind,
eventually forming the basis of inspiration.
My father was an artist. My life,
from an early age, has always been involved with pictures
and images. A few years after college, I became a successful
magazine and commercial photographer in New York City,
specializing in images of fashion and beauty. It was
a natural segue to enter film and video to create more
images for broadcast and commercial accounts. I directed
award-winning films for PBS, educational institutions
and blue-chip corporations. The images were becoming
even more abundant. Not in a single photograph but many,
many images arranged end to end to create a cohesive
story on film.
As a child, I always lived in a fantasy
world. After all, I was the kid who had the fantasy
of striding with Admiral Byrd across the ice of Little
America. I wrote to him in an obvious attempt to nail-down
my dream. Make it real. I constantly bounced between
magic and so called “reality”. The rough
part was, it always took a great effort on my end to
make the fantasies real. With film, I found it easier
to turn my imagination into “reality” than
I did with a photograph. But, there was a downside.
Film had the “details”. The reality stuff
of funding and pre production got in the way. It was
scarcely spontaneous, which was something I liked about
To better delineate the fantasy,
during the course of development and pre-production
of a film, I devised a method of looking at content,
style and costs by creating a "bulletin board".
Unlike storyboards, bulletin boards were visual prompts
that expressed a film's essential ideas in a fragmented
and informational format. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional
snippets and pieces of “stuff” showed how
things might look and interact together. In those days,
I created bulletin boards all the time. Then something
happened that made me realize it was a short step from
a bulletin board to a collage.
One day, all of Antarctica dropped
into my lap in the form of a book on Edward Wilson of
the Antarctic. There it was. Made for my imagination.
A remote and bizarre looking place where fantasy and
reality played out in the most extreme forms, inside
the mind and outside the body. History compacted into
a manageable 250-year time frame. An isolated place
and a bunch of explorers so unreal they could have been
staged. More precarious and romantic than space travel,
this was something I could get into. The constant curiosity,
instilled by my parents, could really take hold in a
place that was, at once harshly real, fantastically
unreal, frightening and heroic. Maybe the Admiral had
something to do with the ideas flooding into my head.
I wanted to make a film about Wilson.
No, a series of films on the whole crazy and obsessed
lot of them. Obsessed? I was the one getting obsessed.
Research and the inevitable bulletin boards sprang up.
Having long forgotten the Admiral’s letter, I
became so fascinated that I began sketching portraits
of these wonderful flawed heroes and their world of
ice. Starting with the bulletin boards, over time, I
combined the portraits with historic information into
a series of seventy-five collages. The materials in
the collages are varied including transparent acetates.
Like the bulletin boards, many collages present the
materials in a three-dimensional format.
THE THIRD ECHO:
The collages evolved and finally
possessed a life of their own. Soon they were being
exhibited at museums in the US, Canada and the UK. They
showed what no photograph or film could convey. Many
images, representing historic objects, could be seen
at one time. This created a multi faceted impressionistic
format instead of an instant in time. They had the informational
format of inter related websites. I could maneuver the
shards of images and information to fit the heroic and
bizarre events that filled Antarctic history. The images
were obtained from many sources throughout the world.
It was a hands-on process. A computer was never used
to modify or juxtapose the images. My partner in the
creation of the collages was the Xerox DocuColor-12
color copier. It not only performed the required high
fidelity rendition of the artifacts, it opened doors
that allowed me to alter and intensify graphic reality.
With diverse ease it pointed to possibilities I could
not imagine or invent. However, I was astute enough
to know what I needed, when I saw it. Suddenly, “imagination”
and “imaging” sounded similar.
Now I was fully surrounded
by images. I was creating them from the glowing ember
that the Admiral dropped into my young mind, many years
ago. Perhaps the collages you see in this book represent
my continued efforts to convince the Admiral to take
me with him to the High Southern Latitudes.
Rik van Glintenkamp