Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
For two weeks this summer, I traveled with the US Fish and Wildlife Service as an artist in residence to Arctic Village, a village of 120 Gwich’in people, and into the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At 19 million acres, Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is the largest in the country, and is located entirely above the Arctic Circle. It is a land of strong contrasts, all at once vast and untouched, and still altered by climate change and the continued use of resources. By walking upon this land alongside the people who have existed here for a thousand generations, my ideals were tempered, yet my inspiration soared.
I have been welcomed back up into Arctic Refuge by US Fish and Wildlife Service summer 2017 to continue my work, this time on the North Slope and with the village of Inupiaq Eskimos called Kaktovik. Traveling to these remote locations and being altered by the land, animals and people is a gift I know only one way to fully repay: with my creations. The final pieces are owned and used by the US Fish and Wildlife Service for education, inspiration, Native relations, and activism.
Below you will view some of my sketchbook entries created out in the field, portraits of elders created in Arctic Village, and the final piece that includes the portrait of Trimble Gilbert, Gwich’in Elder of Arctic Village. To hear more about my unique encounters in the Arctic, visit my two blog posts and take a dive into my travel journal during two weeks of my life that have changed it forever.
David Solomon, Activist, Arctic Village
Ernest Erick, Former Chief of Venetie
Trimble Gilbert, Gwich’in Elder, World Renown Fiddler
Final Commission for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Fairbanks
“As Above So Below: Arctic Village and Arctic National Wildlife Refuge”
Through the layered complexities of the Arctic landscape, the continuity and the connection of all things surface. The Arctic loon calls out from the mouth of the Teedrinjik River, cutting through mighty mountains and sparse spruce forest. The call is met by the swans flying above and the caribou grazing below. Merging with the mountainside, Gwitch’in elder Trimble Gilbert bears a look that is telling of the depth of the People of the Caribou, their understanding of the land’s workings, and wondering what is to come.
Melting permafrost reveals that a land, even this vast and untouched, is subject to the effects of climate change. Here, in one of the wildest places on our planet, we find context and lessons for life. The importance of wilderness is immeasurable.
As above, so below.