Opening Reception by Leigh McCarthy

Friday August 11th
5-8 pm
Samuel Owen Gallery

Opening Reception // Friday August 11th  
5-8 pm @ the Samuel Owen Gallery

I am delighted to exhibit new work from my porthole series at my favorite gallery on island, the Samuel Owen Gallery. My new porthole series of dye-sublimation prints on metal are inspired by summers on Nantucket and the journey to and from the island that has become my second home. The 1947 International Dragon sailboat, ELSKA, featured in the print above won the Opera Cup in 2008. To preserve this beautiful place, I will donate a portion of my sales to the Nantucket Conservation Foundation.

For more information contact the gallery at 508.680.1445 or email

Samuel Owen Gallery 
46 Centre Street
Nantucket, MA 02554



WEEK 1/ The High Arctic by Leigh McCarthy

Day 1 / 3 October 2016/ Longyearbyen 78°13.7 ́N, 015°36.3 ́E

The moment has finally come. We are sailing out of Longyearbyen on the Antigua, a 165 foot Norwegian tall ship. As we depart, snow dusts the deck and dolphins swim in our wake. I am on a boat with 29 other artists for the The Arctic Circle Autumn Art & Science Expedition.

During this two week expedition, the night will last 20 minutes more each day. By the time we disembark, daylight will have collapsed by six hours, the sun rising at 9:59am and setting at 3:23pm disorienting our sense of time.  

It's a rough start. As soon as we sit down for dinner the boat really starts rocking. Three people get sick. What was I thinking? I pop two pills and head to my cabin. They make me feel dizzy and sleepy. 

Due to a big swell and wind, we are forced to make a course change of 180° degrees and head back into the bay. Sailing North East.

20:40 - Sails up, engine off. Northern lights! I am below deck knocked out by sea sickness meds and feeling woozy. 22:50 - Anchor down, Bjonahamna.

Day 2-3 / Bjonahamna 78°23,6'N, 016°51,6'E - Tunabreen

In the morning we have a Zodiac briefing by the Captain. Our guides, toting rifles and flare guns secure a perimeter before we make a landing at Bjonahamna. There are more Polar bears than people on this island.  



Afternoon - 14:05 - Anchor up, sail to Tunabreen. 15:55 – Anchor down 78°23,1'N, 017°23,7'E.

I look towards Tunabreen and am swallowed up by the immensity of the glacier. My attempt to capture this place is futile. There is no way to express the sublime feeling with a picture, a video, or words. It is unphotographable. Ineffable. Exquisite.

I wish i could make time stand still — and capture this moment for you. But my photos can’t capture the vastness. The scale. The cold. The smell. The crackling sounds. The feeling swallows you whole. You're just this tiny little speck in this infinite space.

There is a loud quiet – the water makes noises like a fizzing glass of 7up as air bubbles escape from the glacial ice melting in the water. As soon as I step on deck, I hear the crash of glacier falling into the sea. It sounds like an explosion echoing across the water. Our guide tells us polar bears aren't afraid of the sound of gunshots because it sounds the same as a glacier calving. 

Landing at the newly discovered  ́Jægerøya ́ island after our guide, Kristin Jæger Wexsahl, discovers what once appeared as a spit of land connected to the glacier Tunabreen is actually an island. A large group of Belugas swim by the ship through the shallow shores. I take a few photos, but the belugas only appear as white specks. 

I thought I would be lucky to capture glaciers calving. I didn't realize that it would happen with so much frequency and ferocity. The ice falling displaces the water so violently it creates a set of surfable waves crashing on the shore. Our guide, Sarah, said she has never seen anything like it.  

Tunabreen Glacier


Day 4 / Ymerbukta, 78°18,0 ́N, 013°57.2 ́E

I wake up 5:00am to the boat rocking like a see saw. I push my legs and arms against the cabin walls to stay in place on my upper bunk. We attempt to make it out of Isfjorden and enter the open ocean. The boat heels up to 30° which makes water splash against my porthole. 

The captain decides to turn around at 6:30am because of the strong SW swell. By 8:30 we enter less wild waters. 9:50am – Anchor down, Ymerbukta, 78°18,0 ́N, 013°57.2 ́E.

-2°C, 2m/sec, some clouds but mainly bright sunshine and strong colors. Wind picking up from the South at the end of the morning – increasing swell. Overcast during the afternoon – 1°C.

Ymerbukta looking towards Alkhornet.

Sunrise 09:13 – Sunset 18:15.

Morning – Stationary, short, and longer hike to or towards the glacier Esmarkbreen.

Afternoon – Landing on the land spit in front of Esmarkbreen.


18:00 - Anchor up. Moving to the other side of the fjord — strong winds from the South are expected.

19:20 - Anchor down, Ymerbukta, 78°16,6 ́N, 013°57.6 ́E.

Day 5 / Ymerbukta 78°16,6´N, 013°57.6´E

Today we were ´værfast´ — stuck due to weather. It is impossible to make a landing because of high winds. Despite using two anchors and 270 meters of chain we are still traveling half a knot per hour. I learn that anchors are not what hold you in place, rather it is the weight of chain.

Most of the women on the ship decide to so "swimming" which means they use the ladder to take a microsecond dip off the side of the boat wearing nothing but a leather belt so we can pull them back on board. As we are conserving water — it also serves as a makeshift shower. 

Day 6 / Ymerbukta – North! - Blomstrandhalvøya

3°C, 10m/sec. Sunrise 09:29 – Sunset 17:58.

09:20 – 2nd anchor up. We finally sail out of Isfjorden! Morning sunshine on Alkhornet.



11:45 – sails set.

16:30 – Abandon ship drill. 17:20 – Fire drill.

21:14 – Anchor down, Blomstrandhamna, 78°59,6 ́N, 012°04.6 ́E.

Costume party above the 78° parallel north! 

Day 7 / Sunday 09.10.2016 / Blomstrandhalvøya - Blomstrandbreen

0°C, 5m/s. Overcast. 2°C, overcast and a little bit of rain in the afternoon. Sunrise 09:37 – Sunset 17:49.

Morning – landing on an island in front of Blomstrandbreen. 10 years ago, the glacier was still connected to the larger island called Blomstrandhalvøya,  'flower beach peninsula'. When the glacier retreated it became clear that it was an island in stead of a peninsula. The small island we land on was still covered by the glacier about 7 years ago.



13:20 – Anchor up. Passing through uncharted waters – zodiac measuring the depth in front of Antigua. We make it.

14:55 – Anchor down, Blomstrandbreen, 79°00,2 ́N, 012°13.1 ́E.

Afternoon – Landing close to Blomstrandbreen. We hike to look at the glacier from another vantage. The fog rolls in and we might not be able to see anytthing. But as we approach it disperses and we can take in the immense view of glaciers in every direction! 

The far edge of the world by Leigh McCarthy

The Great Escape (2010), graphite on paper 

The Great Escape (2010), graphite on paper 

Today, the inimitable author and activist, Rebecca Solnit, releases the paperback edition of her book, The Encyclopedia of Trouble and Spaciousness. The book begins with a dispatch from an arctic expedition she embarked upon in 2011 from Svalbard: 

"Far. That first morning, there was out the porthole of my cabin a little blue iceberg. We were in Magdalenafjord, the bay at the end of the earth, the northwest corner of Svalbard in the high Arctic, more than a dozen degrees north of the Arctic Circle. Beyond it were stony gray hills with glaciers curving down the valleys in between most of them. The idea of being so far north was exciting enough, and then there were all those things I always wanted to see: icebergs, reindeer, polar bears, along with all the things I’m always happy to see: water, sky, spaciousness, land forms, light, scale. More than anyplace I’ve ever been, this one imposed a dependency: there was no way out except by this boat, and no way to communicate with the outside world except by this boat. Which was also an independency, from the rest of the world. Times when the view went all the way to the horizon and no land was visible on that side of the boat, when the sea was a delicate blue-gray and the sky was the same color, the sea smooth with billowing ripples that did not break into waves, the sky smooth, and only seabirds coasting along the surface of the sea, coming close to their own reflections, bending but not breaking the smoothness and vastness. The far edge of the world, at the back of the North Wind, east of the sun and west of the moon, as far as far, at the back of beyond, out of reach, out of touch, out of the ordinary, beyond the Arctic Circle, beyond so many things. Far. "

Solnit headed to the Arctic to witness a disaster in slow motion -- the disappearance of the ice pack as it melts. I will follow her in October of 2016, but have meditated on the weight of that symbolic loss for years as depicted in the drawing (posted above), The Great Escape (2010).  Solnit's words resonate with me, "I see disaster everywhere; I also [...] see generosity and resistance everywhere." Solnit's resistance is her story. My resistance is my art.


dreaming of the Arctic Circle by Leigh McCarthy


I am thrilled to announce I was selected to join The Arctic Circle Autumn Art & Science Expedition in October of 2016. This unique residency program takes place aboard a Norwegian tall ship that embarks from the Longyearbyen, SvalbardAs the Arctic ice pack rapidly dwindles, the chance to travel with a group of artists and scientists to document this fragile ecosystem feels more urgent than ever. 

In 1991, I traveled to Prince William Sound on a month-long sea kayaking expedition two years after the Exxon Valdez disaster. I heard stories about what I could no longer see: otters in their breeding grounds, blue mussels that previously lined the shores, and birds missing from the sky. High powered water pushed the oil a few inches below the surface but its damaging effects were ever present. Experiencing this loss first-hand influences the themes and subject matter of my work which depicts landlocked cargo ships shipwrecked like beached whales that have lost their way. My work seeks not to treat these incidents directly, but rather to evoke the yearning for the sublime that lay at the heart of these journeys, and others like it. 

Sailing through the Arctic archipelago, I will explore one of the last untouched ecosystems in the world. During this residency I will create an art project that tells the story of what soon disappear from this majestic landscape for those who will never have a chance to witness it first hand. 


Happy Holidays! by Leigh McCarthy


To celebrate finishing my new website I'm offering a friends + family holiday discount on all my work. You will find seascapes and shipwrecks, prints and drawings, doppelgängers and double exposures. And because I love you, until midnight Dec. 20th EST you can save 20% off.

Hope you have a great holiday and a happy new year!

sending big love to you and yours!
leigh xx

THe Musuem of Walking by Leigh McCarthy

"I have met with but one or two persons in the course of my life who understood the art of Walking, that is, of taking walks—who had a genius, so to speak, for sauntering" — Henry David Thoreau

It is true that few seem to appreciate the art of walking. However, recently The Museum of Walking opened dedicated to the advancement of walking as an art practice. How genius is that? Founded by the artists Angela Ellsworth and Steven J. Yazzie, the Museum serves as a resource which houses a small but mighty archive about the rich history of meandering.