ada pilar cruz photo
Photo by Ada Pilar Cruz

Artist travels to Arctic for inspiration

Cruz collected kelp in the Arctic to make prints in the bathroom of the ship.
Cruz collected kelp in the Arctic to make prints in the bathroom of the ship.

When sculptor Ada Pilar Cruz visited the Arctic Circle for two weeks in October, her studio was her bunk on the boat — and the head. 

She had opportunities to go ashore to collect kelp, which she often uses for printmaking, but the limited space presented challenges for making art. 

“I tried to work on the floor, but it had a rug,” she says. “I finally realized that I could print on the toilet seat.” She sat down, hung the paper on the shower wall and pressed the kelp with her hands to make prints.  

Cruz was on the trip at the invitation of The Arctic Circle, an organization that organizes expeditions four times each year for about 30 artists who apply to visit Svalbard, a Norwegian archipelago. Cruz held fundraisers to pay for her passage.

“When I enter a studio, wherever I am, I immediately start working,” says the artist, who is a native of Puerto Rico. “If I’m not working, I feel like I’m not doing what I should be doing.”

By contrast, in the Arctic, “I tried to just experience it,” she says. “I was advised by other artists who had done this to just take it all in and write notes and take pictures.”

Photos by Ada Pilar Cruz

Cruz completed a two-month residency in Iceland in 2017, but the frozen scenery of Svalbard was still new to her. What stood out was the light from the October sun as it waned. “That sun never rose much above the horizon,” she explains. “It’s a light that I had never experienced.”

She observed the colors and structures of the ice but also noted its “mystery and story.” Cruz said she thought of snow queens, sorcerers and other icons embedded in the ice. “I’m moving in that direction” with the art that may be inspired by the trip, she says.

A print that Cruz made with kelp from the Arctic (right) is overlaid on a map of the archipelago.
A print that Cruz made with kelp from the Arctic (right) is overlaid on a map of the archipelago.

Cruz noticed that her Arctic kelp prints began to resemble maps, which felt like an “inner suggestion” that she was on the right track. “Not only do they look like maps, but they look like the map of Svalbard,” she says, although, she adds, “one looked like the map of Puerto Rico.” 

At her studio in Lake Peekskill she would typically print five pieces in a single morning, but in the cramped Arctic space she printed only four in two weeks, which she framed after returning home. 

She also took more than 3,500 photos, a few of which she shared on March 3 during a presentation at the Garrison Art Center, where she teaches. “You get on this ship, which is a tall ship with three masts and sails, and you sail around the archipelago for 20 days, pretty much looking at the landscape, the seascape, the glaciers, the icebergs, the fossil formation, everything,” she said.

Behind The Story

Type: News

News: Based on facts, either observed and verified directly by the reporter, or reported and verified from knowledgeable sources.

Hoffman is a senior at Marist College in Poughkeepsie. A 2020 graduate of Geneseo Central School, near Rochester, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in communication with a concentration in journalism and minors in music and political science.

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