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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Burlington Artist Captures Intimate Look At Polar Bears In Their Natural Habitat

Courtesy, Sally Linder/artist
This detail from Sally Linder's painting "In Our Lifetime" captures the polar bears who walked right up to the ship Linder was on when it got iced in.

Burlington artist Sally Lindersays she feels a deep connection to the natural world and expresses it through her works. The subject of her latest exhibit, titled "White Magnetism," is one that most of us will never see in their native environment: the polar bear.

In 2010, Linder began painting polar bears in their zoo exhibits and after the Deepwater Horizon oil drilling rig explosion and subsequent oil spill which pumped millions of gallons of oil into the ocean, the artist said she felt an urgency.

"I shifted from paper and canvas to Mylar [plastic sheets] and began to use only oil products," says Linder. "And that was to be a symbol, a metaphor, for what was happening on the planet. I used oil paint and for the blacks and browns, I actually used tar."

National Geographicsaw Linder's works online and invited her onboard The Explorer, a grade-two ice class expedition ship to travel north to see polar bears in their natural habitat and feeding grounds. When the ship's crew of Inuit trackers spotted polar bears off in the distance they'd alert Linder so she could began drawing. She says the experience was overwhelming.

"It was so different from seeing them behind bars and glass," Linder says. "And pretty much at that moment, I knew that the politics were going to drop aside and I really wanted to just paint them in all of their beauty. Because, is this what children were going to have in the future?"

On another trip with National Geographic, the ship Linder was onboard became iced in and "the bears came to us." She spent nearly eight nighttime hours painting mothers, cubs and male bears that walked right up to the edge of the ship, the never-setting sun lighting the sky the entire time.

Credit Courtesy, artist Sally Linder

"I think every artist has an intention and ... I've come to believe that there is a partnership going on in the quiet of the studio ... And that what is created, is an energy field. And if my intention is positive, then I'm assuming that the energy that is created ... is positive. And so the viewer ... that person from the outside steps in ... there's the possibility that their heart is cracked open. And I believe that once you open the heart, there is a greater propensity to following through with action."

Linder's "White Magnetism" exhibit is on display at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery in Burlington through April 2017.

Mary Williams Engisch is a local host on All Things Considered.
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