Artist's Statement

Denis Defibaugh

After spending fifteen months from April 2016-June 2017 photographing four communities in west-central Greenland I have produced a full range of images that suggests a story of culture and environment in today’s Greenland. My goal is to produce a book and fabricate exhibitions with Center’s network, opportunities, and support incorporated with my NSF award. My entry represents a small portion of photographs that have been produced while in Greenland.

My project is inspired by the adventures and art of Rockwell Kent, the American artist and writer, who resided in Greenland between mid-1929 and early 1935. He produced an extensive collection of photographs, art, and literature describing and illustrating his time in the country. Kent’s photographic works, include his rare historic lanternslides of Greenland. Kent loved Greenland and called his time there, “nirvana.”

Kent was drawn to Greenland because of its unrelenting and challenging winter weather. His goal was "to experience the Far North at its spectacular “worst.” I also wanted to experience this extreme environment in the winter and show its beauty and sometime fury.

I returned to communities in Greenland where Kent lived to experience the isolated far north and create photographs of contemporary Greenland. I travelled to the distant communities of Illorsuit and Uummannaq located 250 miles north of the arctic circle. The Inuit of this Uummannaq district shared their local knowledge and understanding of memory and identity. The project questioned change and continuity of Inuit social values, livelihood, and government influence on the sustainability of small remote Inuit settlements.

This North by Nuuk selection of photographs documents the Inuit relation with winter. Hunting and fishing, life on the fjord ice, and how the winter expands the environment of the fjords. My experience was not like Kent’s, although I experienced the same feeling of “nirvana” as Kent during my time in the remote settlements of Illorsuit and Uummannaq.