Headhome: Antarctic sculpture garden

Wooden sculpture in the shape of a man, among the snow
The original wooden head sculpture. (Photo: J. Smith)
Snow covered sculpture garden, with the meteorology building behindSculpture of a sign with 'Everysomewherever' written on itAn Eastaugh sculpture made from scrap timber.Moulting Adelie penguins overlook the statue garden.'Bonsai donga', Steve Eastaugh sculpture.Steve Eastaugh's 'Headhome in Antarctica' sculpture

For years, an enigmatic, weathered face has gazed northwards from a pile of dark rocks close to the meteorology building at Davis Station. It is roughly carved from a squared length of Oregon timber, the work of an unknown expeditioner some time in the late 1970s. It was moved to its present location in 1993 when building operations threatened its former site close by. This poignant face in its harsh surroundings, facing homeward across the ocean, provided inspiration this summer for the creation of a unique, Antarctic sculpture garden.

In the summer of 2002-03, Stephen Eastaugh was artist in residence at Davis, a position made possible by the Australian Antarctic Arts Fellowship. Every year, through this program artists and writers have a chance to visit Antarctica, and to apply their particular skills and perceptions to our understanding of this wonderful place.

While he was at Davis, Steve produced many small, two-dimensional art works, using scrap timber as well as more conventional materials to capture the essence of this wild place and the transient human footprint upon it. Most of these works were displayed at a unique art show at Davis before he left. Other, larger pictures were developed after his return to Australia.

Not all of Steve's art was exported from Antarctica when he departed. He left behind a sculpture garden, based on the wooden statue that was already at the site. The garden occupies a picturesque setting near the blue meteorology building, overlooking a usually-frozen sea, with low, rocky islands beyond a channel, and gleaming icebergs along the horizon.

It has no plants, of course, although in late summer, moulting Adélie penguins may be seen there. Usually it is deserted, quiet, peaceful. In this out-of-the-way corner of Davis, the sculpture garden provides a place of serenity, reflection, beauty and fun, contrasting with the functional reality of the rest of this Antarctic station.

Towards the end of his sojourn at Davis Stephen Eastaugh described the project:

Over the past few weeks I have been working on a number of small wood, fabric and metal sculptures. It is a rare event for me to work in three dimensions but this is a rare place, and I was fascinated by an artwork I found here. Some years ago an unknown expeditioner carved a head from a weathered wooden pole, and planted it in a pile of rocks. It sits sadly overlooking the bay towards a home somewhere in the far north.

My hope is to create an Antarctic sculpture garden by tempting others to construct more totems. The idea is to create some other vertical structures in this environment besides the antennas, flagpoles and windsocks situated all about the station. The first totem made was a mini sleeping container (lets call it a 'bonsai donga') with a rather rough head-like appearance. Headhome is the working title for the entire series.

Can home be situated in one's head? As a person who has led a contemporary nomadic lifestyle for many years I certainly hope so. Internally is where I have stored my lack of possessions and often I have luxuriated in a cosy private time-out place somewhere behind my eyeballs. Travel has somehow turned into dwelling after twenty years of jumping from place to place. Home has drastically shrunk: transformed into a fluid concept that's easy to move. Antarctica will be home for the little sculptures I make but it cannot be my home.

Establishment of the sculpture garden was given official blessing via the environmental preliminary assessment (PA) process in April 2003. In the garden there are four Eastaugh sculptures, in addition to the original wooden head.