Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape
“To inquire into the intricacies of a distant landscape, then, is to provoke thoughts about one’s own interior landscape, and the familiar landscapes of memory. The land urges us to come around to an understanding of ourselves.”
- Barry Lopez, Arctic Dreams
Janet Biggs: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape takes its name from the subtitle of Arctic Dreams, author Barry Lopez’s magisterial 1986 account of the human and natural history of the Arctic. In 2009 and 2010, Janet Biggs traveled to the Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard with a crew of artists and scientists aboard the Noorderlict, a two-masted schooner built in 1910. From footage compiled on these two voyages, she composed Warning Shot, 2016; Brightness All Around, 2011; and Fade to White, 2010. The subject of centuries of exploration by Europe and the New World, the Arctic was once thought so vast and inhospitable as to be immune to the effects of human enterprise. But climate change is now expected to leave Arctic summers ice-free as early as the next decade, and Svalbard sits at the epicenter of this transformation. Perhaps no other place that has figured as firmly in our imagination will disappear as quickly and with such overwhelming consequences, with so few people having witnessed it in person. In these three works, Janet Biggs explores ideas of grief, destruction, hope, and beauty in a heroic landscape that will vanish within our lifetimes.
For fifty years, Barry Lopez explored the land and its influence on our collective imagination. Born in 1945, he lived along Oregon’s McKenzie River from 1968 until his passing in 2020. Lopez was the author of over two dozen works of non-fiction and fiction, including Arctic Dreams: Imagination and Desire in a Northern Landscape, which received the National Book Award for Nonfiction in 1986, Of Wolves and Men, and the memoir Horizon. His essays are collected in three volumes, Crossing Open Ground, About This Life, and the posthumous Embrace Fearless the Burning World, and he was a regular contributor to Harper’s, Granta, The Georgia Review, Orion, Outside, The Paris Review, Manoa and other publications in the United States and abroad. Lopez was a recipient of the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; Guggenheim, Lannan, and National Science Foundation fellowships; Pushcart Prizes in fiction and nonfiction; and honors from the Association of American Geographers, the New York Public Library, and the Nature Conservancy. In 2021, he was awarded the inaugural Sun Valley Writers’ Conference Writer in the World Prize.
Through its exhibitions and programs, the Barry Lopez Foundation for Art & Environment reflects the profound connection to the land and its influence on our collective imagination that informed Barry Lopez’s writing. The Foundation believes that art can help us navigate the complex choices we face about our future and sustain our connection to the natural world.