Explore the World from Top to Bottom

Released April 08, 2008

June 28, 2008, through June 7, 2009

Iceberg, 2008, Mary Edna Fraser

Salem, Mass. — The Peabody Essex Museum invites you to discover our planet’s polar regions in Polar Attractions, a new exhibition at the museum’s interactive Art & Nature Center.

As magnificent as they are vulnerable, the Arctic and Antarctic inspire contemporary artists to capture the expansive panoramas, sculptural ice formations and resilient life thriving at the ends of the earth.

Polar Attractions explores creative responses to the polar environment and the science of climate change through 47 works of contemporary art and interactive stations.

“This exhibition encourages families to experience the polar regions through artwork and activities that demonstrate how nature and human influences have shaped these distinct, biologically important ecosystems over time,” said Jane Winchell, The Sarah Fraser Robbins Director of the Art & Nature Center and PEM curator of natural history. “Visitors will be surprised by the range of color, scale and texture in the show. We hope they will think of this exhibition as an opportunity to see parts of the world most of us will never have a chance to visit.”

Works conveying the unique viewpoints of more than 30 North American artists — including Native Alaskans and Canadian Inuit — are presented in four interconnected thematic sections: Ice, Landscape, Wildlife, and Human Interaction.

Ice. Whether glacial or sea-bound, ice sustains life and regulates the circulation of our oceans. Artists employ sound and video, brushed metal sculptures and paintings made with polar ice to capture the powerful presence of ice in the polar world. Mary Edna Fraser’s Iceberg (above) is one example. Visitors can interact with an iceberg installation and discover its secrets for themselves.

Landscape. Scale-model polar landscapes viewed through periscopes accompany large- and small-format photographs capturing grand polar vistas and delicate flora. More than just ice and rock, these harsh regions display unexpected color and vibrancy.

Wildlife. Although the habitats may seem austere and punishing, the polar regions are home to many creatures that have thrived there for millennia. As ecosystems change, animals are severely tested. Encounter polar wildlife through sculptures you can touch, origami, contemporary paintings and birds from PEM’s own historic collection. Visitors can team up to play the Arctic Tern Challenge, guiding a migrating tern on its perilous journey from one pole to another.

Antarctic Explorer — Darkness to Lightness, 2007, Nathalie MiebachHuman Interaction. From the interconnectedness of native cultures, to the impact of natural resource extraction and global warming, human interaction with the Arctic and Antarctic regions is a multihued tapestry of dark and light influences. In this section, sculpture, basketry, photography, drawings and video installations all address how human beings affect environmental changes. A spectacular sculpture (shown here, worn by the artist) interprets solar, lunar and tidal data in three-dimensional form, alluding to the importance of scientific research at the poles. Visitors can build their own three-dimensional mixed-media constructions and capture digital images to be posted on a museum Web site for others to view and consider.

Other media stations encourage deeper exploration of the themes and art featured in the exhibition through interactive computer stations, video footage and musical compositions.

Polar Attractions is supported in part by New Trade Winds/ECHO.

Images, checklist and artist interviews for Polar Attractions are available upon request by contacting Whitney Riepe: 978-745-9500, x3228, or

About the Art & Nature Center PEM’s Art & Nature Center is a dynamic exhibition space featuring self-guided and facilitated experiences for families, adults and children. This innovative, 2,500-square-foot area integrates original works of art and natural history objects with interactive displays to highlight vital connections between art and nature and to provide a thought-provoking segue to and from the museum’s art galleries. Activity stations, multimedia elements and a range of programs offer visitors a variety of entry points for investigating the artwork and themes presented.


PR Contacts:

Whitney Van Dyke  -  Director of Communications  -  978-542-1828  -

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