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GALLERIES AND PROJECTS
From the Outer Edges
From the Outer Edges
The North has been my primary subject matter for some time, focusing not only on the landscape, but seasonal rhythms and migrations; those cycles within nature that suggest an interconnection between all things. However, in 2008 I had the opportunity to be one of the Artists in the Park at Gros Morne National Park in Newfoundland, which led to an invitation to participation in the Yukons Artist in the Park program at Ivvavik National Park in 2009. An exhibition opportunity in Haida Gwaii B.C. for 2010 led to a painting excursion to the Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site, and so began the following grouping of paintings called "From the Outer Edges".
The paintings from these three remote Parks cover an arc over the country from the west, to the north, to the east. Each place is unique in it's beauty, geological aspect and cultural histories; both the Gros Morne and Gwaii Haanas Parks have Unesco World Heritage status, SGang Gwaay for its Cultural Heritage and Gros Morne for Natural Heritage.
Perhaps the strongest overall common sensation that I felt in these places was the dynamic strength of the natural environment; regardless of the presence of various populations over time, these are not conquered or tamed places.
Gros Morne National Park
My five week visit to Gros Morne National Park on the west coast of Newfoundland in the fall of 2008 was like visiting a snow globe - not in a wintery way, it was lovely fall weather - but in a magical way; of shaking things up and having them settle again. Being in a new and compelling environment, alone and without the usual distractions of life did shake things up for me - it was both energizing and uncomfortable. At first I was keenly aware of being an outsider, but after a few weeks, the ocean air seeped in and I began to feel an affectionate connection to the rugged beauty of the place and the people I had begun to meet. The first painting was a struggle - how to paint a new landscape, to be true to it - could I paint it in the same way I would my own northern landscape? By the second painting I realized that it could only be my response, and that I did not have to be true to anything but what I felt about what I saw, and the work flowed from there. I am very grateful for the experience of this residency and for being able to spend some time in a very beautiful and unique part of the country.Click on image to enlarge
Ivvavik National Park
In the summer 2009 I visited Ivvavik National park in the northern-most part of the Yukon Territory along with five other artists. We flew in from Inuvik N.W.T. and camped for ten days at the Park headquarters where an old mining operation is being reclaimed. Here I found myself drawn into rolling alpine mountains cut by the Firth River on its final stretch to the Beaufort Sea, a landscape mostly above treeline, rocky and in ways severe, yet bursting with wildflowers. It is a place imprinted with the presence of past inhabitants; the braided trails of the Porquipine Caribou Herd traversing the landscape are best seen from high up, archeological sites from the Inuvialuit people who traditionally moved though this area and who co-manage the Park area today, and various artifacts, from old tools to a large excavator left from the now defunct mine. Surprisingly, for such a remote area, it was a pretty busy place. Several biologists were there doing insect research, two rafting groups came through, (one taking us for a joy-ride down river a ways!) A few scientists doing bear research in the area dropped in (by plane), as did a group of Park Administrators for a meeting. However, a little elevation gain and we were as far from civilization as you can get. A funny thing happened at the top of one mountain, I found an oven thermometer stuck into the ground, a rather strange way of monitoring climate change I thought. I found out later that there had been a group of high school students in a few weeks before, it must have been forgotten part of a project. The temperature read 10 degrees, I asked the mountain to say "ahh" while I was at it, it seemed pretty healthy.Click on image to enlarge
Gwaii Haanas National Park Reserve and Haida Heritage Site
This special Park comprises the southern half of the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands, off the West coast of Canada. This landscape had me quite agitated at first, it is so different to what I am used to - forests so tall and deep that I was inside the landscape instead of on it. A place of quiet power, a veritable shangri-la of coastal beauty. Soft grays of misty mornings, ocean blues and greens, seaweed and kelp in orange and gold, whales and deer, sunshine, halibut and crab for dinner. And then there were the old Hiada villages. Paintings by Emily Carr and the Jade Canoe sculpture by Bill Reid were my reference points to Haida culture before I arrived, but the first hand experience emphasized change and the passing of time. The images in my mind were 100 years old and a hungry rain forest has been at work since. The old totems and house sites are allowed to make their natural progression back to the earth and a dignified vigil is kept by the Haida watchmen and women who take turns staying at the sites, supervising and sharing their cultural history with the visitors who come. At first I was quite surprised and saddened that the villages were being "lost", but I came to respect this decision by a people who choose to focus on rebuilding a living culture - new poles are being carved and new stories will be told. Thankfully, Haida cultural history has been and continues to be documented and collected; many poles and other artifacts are exhibited and preserved at the Haida Gwaii Museum at Kay Llnagaay.Click on image to enlarge
Gros Morne, Ivvavik and Gwaii Haanas are some of the most far-flung Parks in Canada. They are less easily accessed by the majority of Canadians (both Ivvavik and Gwaii Haanas are accessible only by air or water) but those who have the opportunity to see them are rewarded with amazing scenery, wildlife, and important geological and cultural heritage sites.
I have a tendency to look for a story or a lesson in the landscape, particularly in terms of change. In the short term, in the passing of seasons and movement of animals, but also in the longer term; the changing path of a river, exposed rock and earth that show the physical layers of change over time, indications of adaptation. The earth tells it's story in it's own way, just as we write poems and paint pictures and carve poles. The stories, of course, intersect and for me provide an ongoing sense of wonder about it all.
Thank you to Parks Canada, the Canada Council and Yukon Advanced Artist Award Program through the support of Lotteries Yukon as well as the Yukon Touring Fund and Canada Council Touring fund for supporting different portions of this project. The premier showing of this work was at the Haida Gwaii Museum at Kay Llnagaay on Sept.17th 2010. I am currently working to expand this body of work and hope to exhibit it in more locations.