April 17, 2011

Wayward Land

Chart of Segment of the Western Arctic North and Northwest of Grant Land by Edwin Swift Balch, 1912, showing the unexplored 'Crocker Land', sighted by Robert Peary in 1906. This fabled land lead to an ill-fated expedition to explore the nature and possible inhabitants of Crocker Land, however they discovered the land in fact, did not exist, and was actually a type of mirage known as a Fata Morgana.

The day was exceptionally clear, not a cloud or trace of mist; if land could be seen, now was our time . Yes, there it was! It could even be seen without a glass, extending from southwest true to northeast. Our powerful glasses, however.. brought out more clearly the dark background in contrast with the white) the whole resembling hills, valleys and snow-capped peaks to such a degree that, had we not been out on the frozen sea for 150 miles, we would have staked our lives upon its reality. Our judgment then as now, is that this was a mirage or loom of the sea ice.

 This imaginary land mass, created by a trick of the light, and the subsequent effort of the Crocker Land Expedition, is the basis for a new work I have begun in my new studio space. A hand embroidered rendering of this map on a white shower curtain, stitched in white thread and fishing line, blurring outlines with surroundings, incorporating materials which will shimmer in the light, reflecting upon ideas of mirages and mistaken realities, and the feeling of being small and inconsequential in a vast, cold landscape.

This is the first work of a series I am working on involving ideas about loneliness, solitude, islands, ships and the sea.

"...the Crocker Land mirage could symbolise the loneliness of the sea in another way. It is almost like a delusion instead of an illusion, something Donald Crowhurst may have imagined seeing, to convince himself of his sanity (or lack thereof). The sense of false hope a mirage can cause, just like how a weary traveller in the desert believes the mirage he is seeing is an oasis, it is uncanny how it appears to take the form of the thing one most desires, and the opposite of what is actually there - in the desert one believes he is seeing water, whereas at sea, one thinks he has sighted land."
- notes from my art journal about Crocker Land and mirages.

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