‘Party of Yetis’, oil and acrylic on canvas, 30″x 40″ – Lily Simonson, 2017
As Artist-in-Residence on multiple scientific expeditions to Antarctica and the deep sea, I paint strange sea creatures and remote habitats in situ. I work side by side with oceanographers, discovering life forms at humanity’s frontiers. My interdisciplinary practice weaves together painterly, philosophical, and scientific concerns. Enveloping the viewer in atmospheric, outsize scenes, the paintings evoke the immersive experience of exploration — whether under three thousand feet of water or six feet of sea ice.
With hyper-saturated glazes, my paintings magnify the bizarre organisms that I encountered beneath colorful, algae-rich sea ice in Antarctica. As the recipient of the National Science Foundation Antarctic Artists & Writers Award, I scuba-dived daily under the ice-covered McMurdo Sound. I collected specimens for lab and studio work, collaborating closely with researchers studying climate change. Directly contributing to field work provides me with unique insight into my subjects.
As part of an expedition to the seafloor of the Costa Rica Margin, I dove three thousand feet in the submarine HOV Alvin. During the dive, I made direct observations and drawings of the seafloor—a dramatic, unique environment that barely registers through photography and video.