Artic Artist: Local woman will document North Pole

Marianna Williams’ dream is to use her artistic skills for more than creating paintings to sell.

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Local artist Marianna Williams with some of her works in her Augusta studio.  MICHAEL HOLAHAN/STAFF
Local artist Marianna Williams with some of her works in her Augusta studio.

She wants to use art to deal with current issues. So this fall, Williams will spend about a month and a half in the Arctic Circle, painting and photographing the landscape to develop a book and a film documentary that will complement scientific research.

Williams will travel with about 15 scientists, environmentalists and artists who will share ideas while each works on individual projects. The trip is facilitated annually through The Arctic Circle, a residency program that is conducted aboard a specially designed sailing vessel reminiscent of a tall ship.

The ship will sail from Norway to the geographic North Pole.

“The boat itself sort of mimics what old arctic explorers would have used,” Williams said.

Part of her work includes aerial photos of the landscape, so she is building meteorological kites to equip with cameras.

Williams said she plans to collect information much the way a scientist would, by keeping a journal and taking photographs at specific times of the day, and use that information to create paintings and drawings of the Arctic Circle.

“If I combine these two different ways – the scientific and the artistic – into one finished artist’s book and film, it would be something that could be accessible for educational and scientific groups as well as something that would be useful for an artistic group,” she said.

Williams, who owns Mill Works Studio in the Sutherland Mill, is preparing for her expedition by studying everything she can about the environment.

She has learned that she can’t wear cotton because it will freeze to her skin.

She also learned that the helium balloons she originally wanted to mount the cameras to wouldn’t work because the cold will keep the balloon from inflating – and helium is rationed in Norway.

Williams said her personal concerns are few: she’s worried about what she’ll eat, and in none of her reading has she found discovered whether she’ll have access to hot water.

“I’m not worried about the polar bears. I’m not worried about falling through the ice. I’m not worried about any of these weird things that could happen to you. I’m worried about, like, eating sardines in a can, and worried about cold showers,” she said.

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