Born in California and raised in NYC, artist Lisa Goren has dreamed of polar landscapes since her teens. Her first trip to Antarctica left her inspired and captivated by the landscape. Subsequent trips to Iceland, Alaska, and the High Arctic increased her understanding of the Polar Regions. Lisa was awarded a place on the 2013 voyage of The Arctic Circle, an artist residency sailing near the North Pole and had two pieces in “Gaia - Les femmes et l'ecologie” in Paris to coincide with the COP21 Climate talks. Lisa has worked out of Boston, Massachusetts, for the past 25 years and is a board member of the National Association of Women Artists (Mass. Chapter).
She was named Artist-in-Residence for the South Shore Art Association, 2016-2018. She traveled to Antarctica with Quark Expeditions in February 1998 and has donated her paintings for charitable auction aboard three of Quark’s ships. Lisa is also open to commissions from other passenger photos.
The first iceberg I saw was on day two of our voyage across the Drake Passage. The sun was shining and, contrary to all of my expectations, the passage was calm and steady. Honestly, I couldn’t understand why our first glimpse of land was so brilliant. It looked like a building stuck out of the sea. I needed to be told that there was an “iceberg ahead” before I got it.
Iceberg From Our Zodiac, Antarctica No. 2 - 24 x 36” watercolor by Lisa Goren, 2005.
For years I’d read all of the explorers I could get my hands on. And it didn’t matter to me that I never saw a Jewish woman from Brooklyn in any of these stories, I knew that I belonged on that kind of adventure. I never worried that this would be “The Worst Journey in the World,” or that our ship would be beset by ice like Shackleton. This was the place for me.
So, when I saw my first iceberg, I was shocked at how shocked I was. Its beauty surpassed anything I could have imagined. My first iceberg wasn’t particularly shapely, it was more like a platform, looming into the sky. But it was made of jewels. And filled with colors. And just beyond the words of a mere mortal. While I tried to take a photo, 20 years ago we travelled with film and I didn’t want to “waste” my precious photos by taking too many too early.
Antarctica Iceberg, watercolour painting by Lisa Goren.
We travelled further south, in a boat named after a Russian professor. And we were lucky. The weather was entirely cooperative. We were able to land several times each day and the skies were often blue and clear.
The peninsula was greener than I expected. The penguins were smellier. The elephant seals were louder. And when the elephant seals were lounging in the sun (at a safe distance from us on the coast while we watched them from a small overhang), I saw more browns than any person could ever name. The monotony of the black and white images of Antarctica was pure fiction. The ice was many colors of blue, the land had green, the kelp on the shore contained reds and yellows. Perhaps we were seeing this world at its best, but it didn’t matter, I was in love.
The day we walked on the actual Antarctic continent was the first time I got to see crevasses. Each day of this trip brought new experiences that were already written in my soul through all of my reading. I’m sure Shackleton, Scott, or Mawson were not excited in the same way I was to see a crevasse.
In the same way, we saw icebergs as floating sculptures whereas the adventurers thought of the dangers first. Having underwater radar made the icebergs much less mysterious and the “tip” of the iceberg no longer ominous. Yes, there were dangers such as keeping the zodiacs far from the calving glaciers, or keeping a safe distance from the icebergs in case they calved or flipped. But my view of the Antarctic comes out in my paintings. It is a world of wonders and grandeur.
Landscape with Lichen, Antarctica; 18x24" watercolor painting by Lisa Goren.
Even before I went South, I knew that I wanted to paint ice using water. I brought watercolors with me and did attempt a few sketches and scenes from afar. It has taken many years, and a singular focus to even begin to capture the ice that I’ve seen.
I have spent the past 20 years haunted by the ice and beauty I saw so far south. When I paint ice that is tens of thousands of years old, I’m also in touch with the impermanence of such majesty. The view I had of a calving glacier shows the face of ice that hasn’t been seen in eons and won’t be seen again as it falls into the sea. In addition, the background noise of global climate change makes these monuments in ice seem even more precious and important to capture on my paper.
Returning home, we encountered a storm where a rogue wave stove the side of our ship in. Exciting? In some ways, yes. We changed our course to avoid the storm as much as possible and the ship limped back into Ushuaia. Naturally, looking at this damage, we all thought that the ship would be out of commission for weeks. But like everything else, the dramatic was par for the course in Antarctica. The ship was repaired and ready for the next group of passengers within 24 hours.
I’ve been told I’m brave for having gone on such an adventure. And admittedly, it’s not something everyone wants to do. But when I talk about my travels, there’s always someone who is drawn to this part of our planet. We are a funny fraternity, the Polar travelers. When you’re called to Antarctica, it’s a privilege to be a visitor. And I have the privilege of revisiting it every time I pick up my paintbrush.