‘Dark Water’ Explained
The oil paintings of Dark Water depict a solitary polar bear at night in the arctic fall. The bear swims in a still dark sea, a dramatic dark backdrop for its dense white fur and highly intelligent face.
The polar bear is the only bear that is a marine mammal. The bear’s size and strength combine with its slightly webbed front paws and highly insulated and buoyant body to make it a powerful swimmer. The polar bear in each of these paintings is fully at home, whether shown above or below the water’s surface.
However, the term dark water has another implication.
The earth’s bright white polar ice cap, which serves as a giant reflector for the sun’s heat, is being diminished by climate change from carbon emissions. The melting polar ice increases the darkness of the planet’s surface (hence “dark water”), decreases the sun reflected back into space, and increases the heat absorbed by the earth. More ice melts, which creates more dark water, and so the loop continues.
This loop of sea ice loss and increased dark water endangers the polar bear. It is the frozen sea, that the polar bear is dependant upon for hunting (only seal fat sustains them, not berries or birds’ eggs), resting, feeding (can’t nurse in water) and denning (necessary for mother bears with cubs, semi-hibernation, and to ride out storms). The increase of the period of open water from spring to fall, and the distance between ice tops in winter, leaves the polar bear and its cubs vulnerable to starvation, attack, and drowning.
The portraits in Dark Water are painted in wonder and warning. They offer a connection to a face, that although is not human, is as beautiful and intelligent as our own, that to protect it is to save ourselves.