Displaced exhibited at ARTsPLACE in Annapolis Royal from July 23rd to August 27th, 2017.
“A weed is a plant that grows where man does not want it to grow, in grainfields, row crops, pastures, hayfields, lawns and other disturbed habitats. Many plants designated as weeds could not survive or occur in their present abundance if these artificial habitats did not exist. In fact we are largely responsible for creating a suitable environment for the growth of the plants that we are most anxious to eliminate.” – Clarence Frankton
Around the corner from where I live there is a park with two small baseball fields. My dog and I walk there daily, it’s a nice enclosed area where we play fetch. Since we moved to the area in September there has been a sign advertising the expansion of the two baseball fields into three professional sized fields. Early this year construction started, trucks came in and started removing the forested area that surrounded the little league fields. Now the area has been completely altered into a manicured sports field, complete with fences, batting cage and audience stands. Since the seed was rolled out a few months ago dandelions have started creeping their way in.
A field of grass heavily peppered with dandelions replaced the forest and it’s natural inhabitants. The dandelion (taraxacum officinale) was first introduced from Europe and has been naturalized in North America, now considered a pest to many homeowners, gardeners and landscapers. I wanted to embody this recreational space in these paintings, so I took inspiration from a photography process called anthotype. An anthotype photograph is made from an emulsion composed of plant pigments. This emulsion is applied to paper to create a light sensitive paper, usually an object of some sort is placed on top of this paper and then exposed to UV rays. Surrounding the object the pigment lightens and the end result is an image of the objects shadow. I chose to use this process but decided to use the emulsion created as paint. To directly connect the field to the paintings I harvested dandelions from the field. Because this medium isn’t archival, throughout the exhibition the paintings will slowly fade. The ephemerality of the paintings quietly acknowledges the threat of their environment, its inhabitants, and their disappearance. The lightening of the pigment returns the surface of the painting to its original form, a birch panel. What’s left is a consumer product of a forested place. Collecting the dandelions from this field connects the piece to the land to which these contemplations first arose.
The land we live on has been drastically altered in so many ways; we have molded a great percentage of the planet for both our necessity and amenity. My watercolour paintings are of endangered plants from the Nova Scotia affected by deforestation and urbanization of natural habitats. Displaced asks the viewer to contemplate these spaces by creating a dialogue between paintings. To imagine the conversations between the two different mediums and subject matters. I ask the viewer to draw connections between the deforested areas and the paintings of endangered plants, the consumption of land for commodity, and what the true cost of this consumption is.
The conceptual basis for my artistic practice is very much rooted in my identity as a woman of mixed Indigenous-European ancestry. My work explores Indigenous issues, such as land, place, identity, environmental discourses, and personal histories and concerns, using botanicals as metaphors for narrating these issues. Through researching both botanical migrations and Aboriginal histories I formed connections that speak to an alternative grand narrative involving the environment, westernization, globalization and Indigenous stories. My grandmother was a survivor of residential school. The residential school system stole so much from her and my family. My grandmother grew up without her culture or language and became ashamed and distant from her family and community. Intergenerational cultural loss is one of the many lasting impacts of residential schools and a theme that I explore in my work. Considering this, I have been trying to develop an understanding of how that cycle of violence and loss has impacted my identity, which I am still struggling to define, and I have employed botany as a metaphor to express my thoughts and feelings about colonial trauma but at the same time to activate Indigenous resilience. There are colonial connections between the academic collecting of botanicals and the study of cultures around the world. This research and collecting practices advanced academic disciplines such as anthropology, informed botany and geology, and was used to justify European exploration and conquest. I see parallels between the ways in which the environment (land, water, and plants) struggles and how Indigenous cultures strive to assert their sovereignty.