Lynn Larsen Paints A Picture Of The Arctic Refuge

Lynn Larsen, an artist from Fairbanks, Alaska, shares her story and some of her beautiful oil paintings of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

The 1002 area is magnificent.

I first visited the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in 1988 and have traveled to the Brooks Range every year since. I have spent approximately forty days on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain during the last three decades. On my first trip to in 1989, a raft trip on the Hulahula River on the North Slope, I crossed the coastal plain all the way to the Beaufort Sea in order to be picked up by our plane.

Thinking the 1002 area was a flat, barren, ugly region, I did not expect to like that part of the trip, but thought at least I would now get to see what all the hoopla was about. At the time, I had no strong opinions on oil development of the area, since the photos released by the oil companies made the area look dismal. What a surprise when I discovered the coastal plain was a gorgeous landscape with abundant life. Since that first trip, I have worked for protection for the entire coastal plain within the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Oil paintings by Lynn Larsen.

People who visit the Arctic Refuge and its coastal plain area support protection. My partner, Ron, has lead many wilderness trips across the coastal plain, beginning as far back as the 1970s through until recently. Many of his clients had no opinion at all on oil development before traveling there, yet after experiencing the area, strongly believed in seeing the place remain wilderness.

Based on his clients, my conversion experience and comments from congressional interns after trips to the coastal plain, the old adage “seeing it for yourself” truly does apply to this area. However, really seeing requires spending several days of camping, not just flying in for a few hours, something our representatives are reluctant to do.

The Porcupine caribou herd on the Arctic Refuge coastal plain. (Ken Madsen)

I still go to the Brooks Range every year. Although we have a bush cabin on the south side of the Brooks, the Arctic Refuge is my favorite part of the Alaskan Arctic. When I visit, the Refuge always renews my soul. Nowadays, when I return from trips, I try to capture in my oil paintings the feeling of this wild space and its long geological story – always trying to capture the impossible-to-describe feeling of being in wilderness that is just allowed to be, wild.