An evening in Antarctica couldn't have been warmer!

By anne
November 4, 2006 - 20:10.

What kind of birthday gift is right for an adventure-seeking, ever-curious friend who is determined to run a marathon at the bottom of the earth? An evening in Antarctica, of course—compliments of Minneapolis photographer Stuart Klipper, whose stunning photographs of ice shelves and penguins are on display right now at New York City’s Museum of Modern Art.

Having seen his work at MoMA on a recent trip, I thought I’d find a catalog for sale at the gift shop, but there isn’t one. Rumor has it that a certain San Francisco-based publisher has signed Mr. Klipper, but book deals can take 12 months or more to result in something gift-able.

Struck by the serendipity of finding a local artist’s work up at MoMA, I was determined that my friend Carol should hear not just any Antarctica story, but his story, and I wanted her to see his pictures. She had heard Ann Bancroft speak at an event just days before, and I was hoping to continue the Antarctica theme in my gift. So I went to the source. I called up Stuart Klipper and I asked if I might bring my friend in for a private studio tour.

Not only was Stuart accommodating, pouring prosecco the minute we arrived at his door, but he was generous, proffering a present of his own: a signed photo from Carol’s dream destination, along with a catalog of work that’s just returned from a museum show in Northern Minnesota. That’s the work we got to see in his living room.

Stuart Klipper, Tabular Bergs, Amundson Sea, Antarctica

There is a difference between the impact of work shown by the artist and the impression you get by gazing at the same work in a gallery. I love hearing from the artist directly because that’s the only way to see the whole picture—to understand that this photo was taken at great risk to life and limb while hanging out of a chopper in a wind storm, and that this one was taken from a dinghy in the shadow of a gigantic icebreaker.

Stuart has visited Antarctica six times and is a student of its history, its culture (yes, culture—people live there), and its scientific community. He is not a fan of big-buck, corporate-sponsored expeditions because the unheralded scientists, he says, endure much harsher conditions and with more rudimentary equipment than do explorers with designer-label gear and daily rations planned by dieticians.

Carol liked her birthday present, which included a dinner with Stuart and me at duplex—where, ironically, the two polar enthusiasts had Midwest fare, while I had Arctic char.

Soon, I expect, Carol will be waving sayonara from one of those ships that sail south from Chile’s Punta Arenas (pictured at left), delivering scientists, stethoscopes and seismographs, and putting their passengers to work along the way. She wants to run that Antarctic marathon even if she has to do it in snowshoes. Afterward, there is a sauna Stuart told us about, where you get steamed up at 200ºF, then make a break for the geographic pole (marked by, you guessed it, a pole) and run around it naked when the temp is -100ºF, thereby experiencing a 300-degree spread and earning membership in the “300 Club.” Yikes. Not for me. But I was happy, for one evening, to play a little part in the dream!

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