Over 300 climbers have summited K2, and over 80 have perished attempting to do so. Most of the survivors have scars or photos and videos as reminders of their pain, struggle, hardship and joy of the mountain. But ill-fated climber Denali Schmidt left behind a series of art works that look at climbing the savage summit in a unique way.
New Zealand’s renowned mountaineer Marty and his 25-year-old son Denali were killed while attempting the first father-son summit of K2 in July, 2013. Having reached Camp-Three at 7,300m, just two months after Denali had graduated from the California College of the Arts, they were killed by an avalanche.
A year after that fateful day on K2, an exhibit has been planned to showcase almost 30 pieces of Denali’s paintings, installations, videos and photographs in eight cities across five countries by the Denali Foundation in an exhibit titled Peak Inspirations. The exhibit is contingent on funds currently being raised through a Kickstarter campaign.
What we leave behind
Left in a San Francisco storage unit, Denali’s paintings talk about mountains and the pain and joy felt by brave souls who undertake hellish journeys to reach the summits of freezing masses of rock and ice.
His work brings together the world of art and adventure climbing in a way not seen previously. Some of the more expressionist work showcases climbers at the top of summits punching triumphantly in the air. His choice of reds and vermillion chalk out the adrenaline felt when reaching a summit.
One of the paintings shows K2. The cerulean peak is obscured behind sweeping clouds while the signature rocks of the mountain, including the 400-metre vertical face Black Pyramid and the shoulder, are shown without snow, its jagged edges naked. Red strokes map two climbing routes, the West Ridge climbing route and the favoured Abruzzi Spur.
One of the pieces is an oil painting on plywood titled The Human Element. It depicts a person clad in a burnt orange down-jacket with the face hidden behind climbing goggles.
Planned as an installation during the exhibit, the plywood will be placed face-up on the ground with a thin sheet of glass over the painting. Dry ice is then placed on top of the glass. During the course of the day, the audience can see the painting emerge through the ice. As the ice melts, more of the climber is revealed.
While it is not known whether this piece was a self-portrait, Denali’s sister Sequoia Di Angelo says it is somewhat “poetically prophetic” since her brother is now forever lost to the ice near Camp-Three on K2.
The Kickstarter campaign, called The Peak Inspirations Exhibit, was launched on July 27, 2014 for 53 days—the age in years of Marty Schmidt at the time of his death with his son on K2, explains Denali’s website. The campaign aims to raise $330,000 to help organise the travelling exhibition. So far, $19,435 has been raised and there are 43 days to go.
The exhibit is slated to start in San Francisco, California on July 27, 2015, exactly two years after Marty and Denali died on K2.The exhibition will be showcased in Los Angeles; Austin, Texas, New York; London, England; Paris, France; Berlin, Germany and Sydney, Australia before completing its journey in Denali’s native Wellington, New Zealand. In each of the cities, Denali’s works will be on display for two weeks.
Di Angelo added that Pakistan did not originally feature in their plans due to budget constraints. However, an exhibit in the land of K2 will be added if they exceed their $330,000 goal on Kickstarter.
To contribute to the campaign: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/peakinspirations/the-peak-inspirations-exhibit
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2014.
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