J.J. L’Heureux is a visual artist based in Venice, CA who makes documentary style photographs as well as paintings and collages. She is an environmentalist who is interested in the micro and the macro. This has led her to photograph both near and far— the community around her Venice Beach studio as well as the exotic Antarctic landscape.
In 2000 L’Heureux made her first foray to Antarctica and returned every year thereafter accumulating a huge archive of digital images that range from close-ups of albatross and penguins, to expansive shots of the Ross Ice Shelf as well as more intimate pictures of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s hut at Cape Royds. L’Heureux initially traveled to Antarctica to photograph the patterns of ice and snow as source material for a series of abstract paintings. She was seduced and intrigued by the beauty of the white on white wilderness and realized there were more aspects of the landscape that attention must be paid to that she expanded her project to include photographing Antarctica’s environs, wildlife and history.
L’Heureux is a naturalist and true adventurer. Her numerous photographic series include images of penguins, seals and polar bears in the Arctic as well as photographs of the people she encounters on her expeditions. To travel so far and endure harsh conditions takes a seasoned traveler and if L’Heureux was not that before her first journey she has certainly become one.
In order to make the photographs she experienced Antarctica as a passenger on Russian icebreakers, participated as an art and photography lecturer on adventure cruises as well as on her own in a small motor sailor, the Golden Fleece, to circumnavigate South Georgia Island. L’Heureux also participated with the South African Penguin Study on Robben Island, South Africa, collecting data that the Marine and Coastal Management Unit of South Africa used to learn about the habits of this endangered species.
L’Heureux’s work has been included in hundreds of national and international solo and group exhibitions since the 1980’s. She attended the San Francisco Art Institute, San Francisco, California, the Academy of Art, San Francisco, California, the Parsons School of Design, New York, New York, and Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan.
She has 4 solo exhibitions installed at museums in 2017 and currently is participating in several group exhibitions throughout the United States.
My Sir Ernest Shackleton Hut photographs are intended to illuminate and celebrate Shackleton’s time at Cape Royds. This project is an unfinished chapter in a seventeen-year odyssey in Antarctica that contains 17 different expeditions. Like Frank Hurley, Shackleton’s expedition photographer, my first purpose was to photograph the rich environment of ice, the diversity of surprising colors, shapes and monumental sizes. Along the way a larger insight into Antarctica and its history developed. To succeed in getting to such places as Cape Royds in the Ross Sea involves a long and difficult sea voyage as well as the high probability that one will not be able to land due to conditions such as sea ice or terrible weather. Once having landed there is a long, uphill climb in icy and windy conditions past a huge Adelie Penguin colony. The small, unpainted hut is at the end of this struggle as it was for Shackleton and the men who lived there for more than a year.
Entering the hut and getting out of the constant wind and cold brought for me a sense of accomplishment. Then there is the interior of the hut itself, stacked with the supplies and equipment necessary for the original expedition to survive. They left their supplies, clothing, coffee pot on the stove and other direct statements of what was going on physically at the moment of their departure. I was immediately struck by the focal point of the hut…the stove. The stove was the sole generator of warmth and also the center of social as well as physical survival for the men. This Shackleton series is my homage and celebration to the spirit of the place.
Except for the sounds of the rookeries and the wind, there is a complete absence of industrial sound. Photographs lack sound or any suggestion of it. It is as if each scene has been encapsulated and frozen in crystal pure ice.