It was something of a burden for Elizabeth Bourne to make the long journey from Svalbard back to the United States she’d left earlier this year just so she could be among the thousands of creative minds seeking to create an impression at what The New York Times calls “the country’s most important art fair.”
But at the urging of folks there she paid her own way to leave the frigid Arctic polar night for an otherworldly week in hot and humid Miami. As a result she now has to lug a rather huge burden back to her new home, as she won the “Unleash Your Creativity Series” award and finished third among all artists at the 17th annual Art Basel for her photograph collection “Svalbard: Land Without Borders.”
“They had thousands of submissions from all over the world,” she wrote in an online interview Monday, a day after winning the award. “It is astonishing that I was accepted, never mind won anything.”
Bourne, a transplant from Seattle who first visited Svalbard and other Arctic areas in 2017, moved to Longyearbyen in April. She made a quick impression with a “Cyanotypes” exhibit of Svalbard landscapes shortly after arrival (a follow-up exhibit was featured in early November), and has been a prolific publisher of her works here since on Facebook and other media.
Her Art Basel exhibition features a dozen photos with landscapes as the dominant theme, with the few elements of a human presence shown generally being overwhelmed by Mother Nature. Unlike the blue-hued tones of her local exhibits, the photos she brought to Miami show a full rainbow of natural hues that seem nearly oversaturated.
The award means Bourne’s work will remain on display throughout the year and she will make a return trip to Miami for a dedicated exhibition sometime next year. But the thrill of victory didn’t prevent a return of her typical sense of Facebook humor a few hours later about enduring the tropics (“nothing dries here…still damp after two days…a freaking lizard just ran over my nearly naked foot. Yes, I did shriek”), and thoughts of returning for the holidays in her new home.
“I am very grateful to the people of my home, Longyearbyen, for being kind and generous and welcoming to a wide-eyed stranger,” she wrote. “You are proof that in the frozen north there is a warm heart.”