Artist Bob Selby captures the collaboration of ecologists and the U.S. Coast Guard in the pursuit of knowledge in the vast Arctic Ocean. The painting “Chukchi Reach” received the 2014 George Gray Award and it is on view at the residence of Charles Adams, the American Ambassador to Finland, where it is being used for public diplomacy programs. Both the U.S. and Finland have strategic interests in the Arctic.
Long interested in Arctic missions, artist Shelby deployed in 2013 on the Cutter Healy with several research teams from a variety of universities, including Dr. Dunton and his research group from UTMSI. Shelby’s painting captures UTMSI scientists as they take samples of ice to enable them to better understand the important role of ice algae under changing conditions. As the artist explains he was in a unique vantage point from which he viewed “the very moment that Dunton thrust himself across the gunwale and literally reached into the sea.” He added “I was beyond great ships and cranes; close enough to see humans cooperating with human in the pursuit of knowledge.” He returned to his studio a few weeks later “determined to capture that scene and the important work that it reflected.”
Dr. Ken Dunton has been conducting research in the Arctic for nearly four decades with a focus on productivity and food webs. He is interested in how Arctic estuarine and coastal systems are responding to changes in warming and rapid ice retreat. His latest research in the northeastern Chukchi Sea, depicted in the painting, is related to the role of ice algae as a “food bank” to bottom dwelling creatures such as crustaceans and clams that are important food for larger marine mammals such as walruses and gray whales.
Artist Bob Shelby and the endeavor was supported by the U.S. Coast Guard Art Program.
Learn more about Dr. Dunton’s Arctic research at: https://cns.utexas.edu/news/abundance-flourishes-in-hanna-shoal
The U.S. State Department’s prestigious Art in Embassies program which was formalized in 1963 to promote U.S. public diplomacy through the visual arts and artist exchanges. Today it involves 20,000 participants globally including artists, museums and galleries in over 200 venues and 189 countries.