In the month of June I went to Alberta to conduct some research on my family history and ancestry, visit archives, local museums and libraries; I also wanted to visit the land that my ancestors once occupied. My Great Aunt Ivy, my grandmothers’ sister, lives in Grande Prairie and she opened her house to my mom and myself. We stayed there just over a week, visiting family and helping around the house. Along with visiting relatives I went to local archives and libraries, including the library in Grouard where my grandmother went to residential school. Ivy agreed to take a day trip to High Prairie to show me the dairy farm she grew up on, I was hoping to get some recording of oral stories and histories while I was there and include them in my show at the Anna Leonowens in July (the one that just passed). Unfortunately while my mom and I were visiting my Great Aunt Yvonne, Ivy’s sister, passed away from complication at the hospital. It was an incredibly sad week. Ivy, understandably, couldn’t bring herself to take a day to drive around High Prairie and talk about the times passed.
Knowing that I wouldn’t be back in the area for some time I decided to take a drive to around the area on my own. Ivy drew me a map of where the old farm once stood and we had long discussions about the area and her time there. While driving I was struck by the expansive landscape, the Albertan landscape appears endless; you can see the weather moving in on you. This was the first aspect that inspired my installation piece at the Anna. After driving for a few hours and taking numerous photos I starting thinking of creating a document of the land. Something tactile and factual, something that replicated the articles I was looking for in my research. I sat with the thought while driving, thinking over and over again about this document of the land. While driving I finally came across Heart River, I parked on the side of the road and started walking along the river. Without really thinking about it I started looking at the plants along the river, imagining how people before me once stood here, in a completely different landscape, and looked at these same plants. Or did they? Have these plants changed with the construction of pavement roads, industrial farming equipment, oil pumps and green houses? As I thought of these things I started picking parts of the plant, not decimating the plant but removing parts of the leaves, small flowers and stems. I had an entire arm full when I got back to my car. I did this three times and then decided I had enough for the idea that was forming in my head.
The concept for this piece was to create a document of the land by using plants from the land of my ancestors in paper and assemble an installation that mimicked the landscape. As some of you may know, I just completed my first year of the Master of Fine Arts at NSCAD University. During this year you are required to write papers on various subjects as well as a draft of your thesis. I am a very tactile learner, I have to edit papers with a pen in hand and a draft copy in front of me, so, as you can imagine, all these drafts and papers added up to a lot of used paper. I had decided during the year to keep these and somehow reuse them later. While formulating this piece it occurred to me that this would be the best opportunity to reuse the papers in my recycling bin.
I went home and started work, there are about 140 pieces of hand-made paper made from reused academic readings and writings, and plants from the edge of Heart River. I spent days on my deck in the sun pressing the paper and drying it out. Once all the pieces were prepared I assembled a hanging device out of chicken wire and hung fishing line from it, later to be attached to the circular paper sheets.
I was extremely happy with the outcome of this installation piece. When I applied for the Anna Leonowens exhibition I imagined a show that consisted of research, documents, photographs and maps; I wanted to show what I had collected. I feel that this piece is a truer representation of what I had learned and what I had gained from the trip. This was the land of my ancestors, collected and mixed with all the work I had done in the month’s prior. It was a cathartic experience to use the paper I had collected throughout my first MFA year. The action of combining the plants from the land of my ancestors and used paper was like combining two worlds I had previously thought of as so separate.
Currently I am on a research trip in Edmonton, Alberta. My mom was nice enough to offer to come along with me; sharing the experience has been amazing. Tomorrow we’ll drive up to Grande Prairie and onto the Lesser Slave Lake area where my maternal ancestors lived since time immemorial.
Along with researching my maternal genealogy and the place they once lived I have brought along posters of Elsie. I screen printed over 200 of them before I left Halifax, and plan on posting them up along my travels. Yesterday my mom and I hit the streets of Edmonton and posted her up. Elsie is a character I created based on a historical classroom photograph of St. Bernard Indian Residential School, where my grandmother attended. Aesthetically she is meant to represent every female student but is individualized by her name, which was my grandmothers. Elsie seeks to engage the viewer with her eye contact, confronting the viewer and asking them to question the space in which she is placed. Posting images of Elsie up along this trip is an act of indigenizing, decolonizing, resisting and claiming space.
Untitled Plant 1 is a 91cm square painting that depicts a common houseplant juxtaposed with a pattern background. I have chosen to depict houseplants in this painting to draw attention to the shared histories of plants and human beings. Imperial and colonial projects touched both plants and humans at the point of European discovery. The histories of domesticated plants parallel indigenous histories in ways such as being taken and exploited to the point of extinction. This painting also addresses issues of authenticity and tradition with the use of design and pattern development. The plane of the painting is fragmented to add tension and to speak to my personal history of feeling fragmented and disjointed.
Plants have always had a special place in my heart. Since I was a child I have enjoyed their company. I have always surrounded myself with them all my life; they are a source of comfort on winter days and a live subject for drawing exercises when I need some inspiration. I chose domesticated houseplants for two reasons; first, I could rely on my own documentation for the paintings. In the past I have got my image sources from the Internet, as I was painting endangered plants. Secondly I see parallels between the history of plant cultivation and indigenous colonial histories. From the Age of Discovery at the end of the 15th century Europeans have been documenting their discoveries of these “New Worlds”. Royals sent out scientists and artists to document, collect, dissect, and name new and foreign beings (‘beings’ in the sense of anything living). From that moment on humans and their objects, as well as plants, have been used for imperialist advancement, most notably in the form of consumerism. As Anne Whitelaw states, “Anthropologists in particular were concerned with collecting as many and as varied specimens from such cultures before the inevitable assimilation with European culture became too evident. While there was little desire to ensure the survival of human members of such cultures, great care was taken to safeguard the more elaborate and significant objects these members produced.”  Indigenous arts, artifacts, and crafts have been collected, or rather stolen, to be shipped back to the Imperial powers and placed in museums and private collections. Throughout the centuries these objects have been taken, now being mass-produced in other places and then shipped back. You can see this in dollar dream catchers made in China or the souvenirs shops that sell totem poles made in Indonesia. The same can be said for plants around the world. Periods in time such as Orchid Mania and fern fever, or pteridomania, were eras that decimated certain species, which even today are not found in their original habitats but can be found in your local flower shop.
In Untitled Plant I there is the inclusion of patterns and designs. This, for me, is an act of reclamation. Beading patterns and designs adorned Metis and Cree garments to signify tribal and familiar affiliations as well as Metis garment production during the fur-trade. As I am just becoming familiar with my own family’s history and ancestry I am creating my own patterns and designs responding to archival research. The technique I am using to create these patterns is no less laborious than beading; the act of this laborious practice connects me to my ancestors through the dedication of time and practice. Through acts of connects me to my ancestors through the dedication of time and practice. Through acts of designing, taping and painting I am celebrating and claiming ancestral practices in contemporary painting techniques. By engaging in this I am building my own traditions and creating body memory similar to beading techniques. Much like Christi Belcourt I am engaging in notions of beading of my ancestors but also European influences. Robert Houle states,
“Today, there is an emergence of a new art by a new generation of young artists. These come from two different aesthetic traditions: North American and Western European. The first is deeply rooted in tribal ritual and symbolism; while the latter is an irreversible influence committed to change and personal development. This new art is traditional and contemporary in source. Also, it is innovative and sophisticated in style and technique.”By activating both these aesthetics, I invoke a contemporary indigenous mixed-race art practice.
 Trepanier, France, and Chris Creighton-Kelly, eds. Understanding Aboriginal Arts in Canada Today: A Knowledge and Literature Review. Rep. Ottawa: Canada Council for the Arts, 2011. 46. Print.
 “These orchid hunters desire for discovering and collecting, and the insatiable demand for the flowers in Europe and America, was devastating to the native orchid populations as well as the trees on which the epiphytic flowers grew. There are still areas in Central and South America in which the plants never recovered.” Amelinckx, Andrew. "Old Time Farm Crime: The Cutthroat World of Victorian Orchid Hunters." Modern Farmer. Modern Farmer, 01 Aug. 2014. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.
 "Pteridomania." Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 27 Feb. 2017. Web. 09 Apr. 2017.
 “Frugality, efficiency, family labour units, and an acute sense of shifting market trends enabled Metis women to maintain access to consumers. The longevity and volume of their production, and their use of marketing strategies ranging from contractual arrangements with fur-trade companies to community-based entrepreneurship, suggest that much of the material in museum collections came from their hands.” Racette, Sherry Farrell. "Sewing for a Living: The Commodification of Metis Women's Artistic Production." Contact Zones: Aboriginal and Settler Women in Canada's Colonial Past. Ed. Katie Pickles and Myra Rutherdale. Vancouver: UBC, 2014. 41. Print.
 "Christ Belcourt Bio." Christi Belcourt. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Apr. 2017.
 Trepanier, France, and Chris Creighton-Kelly, eds. Understanding Aboriginal Arts in Canada Today: A Knowledge and Literature Review. Rep. Ottawa: Canada Council for the Arts, 2011.17. Print.
This series of silkscreen prints was made from an exposure of a beading I made on an embroidery loop. The original beading design was adapted from an archived photo of the garments on the Museum of Anthropology (MOA) website. The beading contains three colors, blue, white, and black; the shape is a long rectangle with three evenly spaced diamond shapes hanging from the bottom.
The prints are a circular shape with a semi-translucent fabric, when exposed to a silkscreen the weave of the fabric is accentuated and the beading becomes muted, the delicacy of the beading almost completely disappears. This series was about process rather than exercising printing techniques. The process of this print series was to continue printing until the image disappeared. The result was a series of over 50 prints that resembled moon cycles, from a complete circular shape (full moon) to a half (half moon) to a sliver (crescent waxing) to finally just speckles of faded colour (new moon). This process of degradation could point to notions of disappearance or of emergence, which is reflective of my concepts in lost histories and traditions but also point to building memory which is what my practice aims to do.
This project is a series of synthetic moccasins adorned with oil company logos. Drawing from my Cree and Métis ancestral histories, I am currently exploring decorative and garment production histories of my Cree and Métis ancestries and how these traditions changed with the introduction of cultural exchange with settler peoples. According to the research put forward by researchers at the Canadian Museum of History, Métis women started adorning their garments with floral designs after contact with Europeans as well as due to the inter-familial relationships with the Cree nation. Adaptation and innovation with technologies and materials, which are recognized by Indigenous scholars such as Sherry Farrell Racette and Steven Loft saw the change by historic Métis artists from quills to imported beads. My produced concept imagines the future of North America with the continual over taking of capitalism and expansion of resource extraction sites and engages with the notion of Indigenous cultural traditions of adaption and continuities to explore the idea of inverting the traditional moccasin into a synthetic and non-disposable object of the future.
They say the first semester is the busiest. They say you have a lot of academic work that takes priority. They say studio time takes a bit of a hit. They were RIGHT!
The first semester of your MFA at NSCAD you are required to complete Pedagogy (a class based on teaching and learning practices), a seminar class, which I substituted so I could do a research/internship with the MSVU Art Gallery and Walking With Our Sisters (so I have to take that next year), and studio worth 6 credits. It doesn’t sound like much but trust me it wasn’t easy. Especially because in the middle of the semester you are encouraged to write a SSHRC grant application that takes far more time than you think it will.
So now that that is all over here is a synopsis of my studio practice…
In my studio I have been working on a variety of different approaches, alternative mediums, and attempting to expand my methods of practice. I have been experimenting with different mediums such as beading, gouache and books. Specifically I have been working on two very separate practices; continuing to explore plants and their symbolism, in regards to colonial histories, globalization, westernization and Indigenous knowledges, practices, and methods, and Elsie, a character that was created to speak to these same themes and concepts.
Elsie, the character.
Elsie is a character I created in order to talk about things I was having a difficult time saying in my previous work. Although conversations in my work have revolved around colonizing, aboriginal histories, westernization and globalization, I have never strayed from portraying subtle and gentle critiques using botanicals. Elsie was created with the intention of being loud and direct. She is an outlet, a statement, a friend, and a memory. Elsie is inquisitive, thoughtful, and outspoken (in her own way). Elsie is based on a historical photo of residential school students I found in the St. Bernard Indian Residential School (Grouard, AB) archive website. She represents every female student in the fact that her haircut is the same as all the other female students, her uniform mimics theirs and her quiet demeanor replicates each individual student. The name Elsie was my grandmothers who attended St. Bernard in the 40s, she passed from complications in 2008. Elsie represents every female residential school student but is individualized through her name.
Elsie, the painting.
Elsie is a 4 by 5 foot portrait painting of the character I created. She is painted in oil paint with little detail, simply a line drawing blown up. I was looking at artists such as: Clare Rojas, Yoshitomo Nara, and Barry McGee. Elsie is engaging with the viewer through direct eye contact and holding a sign that reads “Decolonize”. She is critiquing multiple institutions: the university, the gallery, the space, the city, the province, and finally the country/ies. By engaging with the viewer she seeks to have the viewer question the space and institution. By not detailing who Elsie is in the title or in other modes of communication, during the exhibition, my aim was to reference the fact that so many residential school students haven’t had their stories spoken about. So many of them were lost in the terrible histories of residential schools. Even today many residential school survivors don’t feel comfortable telling their stories. With Elsie’s quiet critique I aim to draw attention to these histories but also seek to promote change within institutions though this small act of resistance.
These paintings are an experiment that is in progress. My intentions were to form a conversation between the last series of paintings, titled It’s Bigger Than This…, that depict endangered plants across North America and the current series that are supposed to represent invasive species across the country. It’s Bigger Than This…is a series of paintings that portray different endangered plants in a realistic, naturalistic, and soft style. The paintings are perceived to be incomplete because certain parts of the plants anatomy are simply outlined instead of painted in; this is meant to symbolize the act of disappearance. The current series consists of sketches and paintings that portray the invasive plants are painted in bright, jarring, and noisy colors. My intension for this current series was to create a conversation between the two series. The current series is meant to be intrusive to the viewer, they were intended to ‘steal the show’ with color and vibrancy.
My intensions were met with disappointment; I do not think that the current series was successful. Alex and I have been talking and we think that the next step will be to revisit this intension but with an alternative method. I plan to make images (sketches, paintings, drawings, prints) that explore multiplicity. I will take an image of an invasive plant and multiply it several times on one plane. During the winter semester I will also be an exploring print media, I would like to experiment with both lithograph and screen printing in order to explore the theme of multiplicity in a new medium.
It's been a great month. It was so nice to be given the chance to show my work at the Craig Gallery. Here are some photos...
I apologize for not writing sooner. I decided to take September off and just focus on getting settled into my new place. Now half way through October I finally feel like I am in a groove and that I am fully ready to get back to work. I finished setting up my studio space this week- I am ready to write, paint and draw my days off away. I wanted to share some photos of my new studio space (which is my living room). It's a small space but thankfully I was made small so I fit quite nicely.
I am very happy with my space, I am very excited to see what I create in the coming months. I have lots of ideas and have started planning some out. I have a show coming up in March at the Craig Gallery in Dartmouth so I am working on some new works to include in the exhibition. Now that I have my space set up I am feeling inspired and ready to get to work! I'll keep you posted!
It's my 29th birthday! So I will keep with tradition and tell you about my yearly ritual. One of my best friends calls me "hyper organized". I get a great deal of pleasure from organizing and making lists. I love writing lists, writing goals, to do's, and anything else that can to be written down on a piece of paper in point form. To give you an example I have 4 working calendars and 2 journals that I write in on a regular basis, one visual and one 'dairy'.
I love organizing my day and time. Every year I sit down and write a goal list for the year. It consists of three categories; personal, art and financial. Personal includes travelling, happiness, health and fitness goals. The art category is usually the longest and it consists of applications, shows and production goals. Financial goals are just that - they are basically a run down of the debt I have to work towards and ideas of how to work on them (this is one I thought I would mention but not share too much info).
Travel - This year because of the residency and work I havent had much time to do any sort of travelling - with the exception of a four day jount around Toronto. Before this year my boyfriend and I went on regular camping and hiking trips so I am hoping that this year I will see more of that. We hiked Cape Chignecto last summer and we were hoping to do the other side of the Bay of Fundi this summer, but seeing as this summer is passing so fast we may have to postpone it to summer 2016. We really enjoy outdoor activities so some weekend trips are not far down the line.
Happiness - I wish to read more. I do read quite a bit but I find that since graduating from university I have lost patients with reading for a long period of time. I hope to improve this by making a list (obviously) and checking off the books I read. I try to think of things that will make me happy on a regular basis but once a year I try to think of a change that could possibly make the year better. Last year it was adopting my dog Jackson, the year before it was exercising more often and this year it's living on my own! As I briefly mentioned in my last post I am moving back to Halifax. This is the first time I will be living on my own and I couldn't be more excited. I found this article written by Lyndsay Rush a few months back and all I can think of is how awesome it's going to be. I consider myself a particular person (also known as anal retentive), I like a clean house, or at least I think I do and I am very interested in seeing if this renders true. I am beyond excited to decorate as I want to. One thing holding me back from decorating in the past was not wanting to take up shared space but now all the space will be MINE!
Health and fitness - The year prior to this I was working out at least 5 days a week. After I adopted Jackson I started going to the gym less and less. I was working a lot more, both at work and in the studio, and I didn't feel like I was spending enough time with him so I always felt guilty leaving him home alone unless I absolutely had to. He was too young to take for runs so we would basically just walk around town. Slowly I started loosing motivation all together. Now I have decided to pick up my running shoes again and work towards the Bluenose Half Marathon for 2016. I have been for at least 3 runs a week for the past month and I believe after my move I'll be able to develop a daily routine that will involve running at least 5 days a week. Stay tuned for my running schedule most likely to be posted in the next month or two.
Applications - This year I am planning on applying for a number of different opportunities. I would like to apply for my masters in fine art. I have four schools in mind; The Art Institute of Chicago, Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (NSCAD - the university I graduated from), OCAD (Ontario College of Art and Design) and The University of British Colombia. Other applications I wish to work on and send off this year are the Banff Residency application for fall 2016 and recently I came across an internship opportunity with The National Museum of the American Indian in New York. I will be working on these applications in between projects and work itself. I am currently working on a few grant applications just for my own art practice, I'll be sending those off before December.
Shows - This year I set a goal of two solo shows. Each year I like to think about what I am doing and what I think and hope I can accomplish. I already have a show placement at the Craig Gallery in March 2016, so that is one to count on. If I could find another space to show I will be thrilled. I would also really like to be a part of the Nocturne 2016, I have already started brainstorming ideas and locations around Halifax.
Production - I like to set goals about how much work I can get done in a year. I started this blog last year around the time I started the NSCAD residency. I have chosen to make this blog more of a priority in my daily life. One blog post a week is my goal for this year. Along with the hope of producing one finished art work a week (now it depends on the size and complexity of the piece but I will try to stick to my word). I really want to work on my colours in painting. I find that I still get a bit of anxiety when mixing colours for a painting and I believe that if I were to paint on a more regular basis this anxiety will lessen and become more of an innate practice.
Goals - I am not completely comfortable writing about my finanial goals but I thought I would just share a little bit. I have goals mainly centred around sticking to the budget I created and paying off my credit card and student debt. I also have a goal not to buy any clothes this year. For the past year I have worked at Luvly in Lunenburg and I have bought more clothes that I ever had in my life. I believe very strongly in the clothes Luvly carries and I haven't felt guilty about buying any one of their pieces. To explain a bit about Luvly I took this from their site; "Luvly in Lunenburg is a boutique that exclusively carries independent Canadian clothing for women. All of our designers are Canadian and their lines are manufactured in Canada. Many of our designers specialize in using reclaimed fabrics, while others focus on natural fibres such as silk, wool, cotton and bamboo." It was great working and learning from all the lovely ladies who work there and associated with the Burns Block (find out more about the building on at Luvly.ca). That being said though I have committed to not buying any more clothes for the next year - perhaps on my 30th birthday I'll go on a big spending spree!
And there you have it. My goal lists painfully explained (I am actually surprised you made it here!).
So the residency is coming to an end at the end of the month and I am in the midst of moving. If you are an artist you will know all about accumulating both art supplies, materials and pieces, while packing I have noticed that I have a ridiculous amount of stuff. At this point the less I have to move the better.
So I have decided to make a special offer to all of you who are interested. The images below are the paintings that are included in this offer - beside each painting is its original water colour painting. The original water colour painting is the preliminary sketch I did before starting this series (It's Bigger Than This...). The original is normally sold for $120 and the painting itself is sold for $840.00 but for these four paintings I am offering both of them for $840.00.
Please email me if you are interested, I would love to give them to a good home.
I have always loved botany, especially flowers. From as far back as I can remember I have always been drawn to them. I used to sneak into my neighbours yard and pick her flowers, she had an amazing garden. I would concoct potions made from plants I picked on the way home from school, I would pretend I was some sort of witch or medieval pharmacist. When I was a teenager, my high school boyfriend and I set out to find the rarest of orchids on the west coast. We made a list and would carry around referance books with images to confirm. We would take trips to the islands off the coast of BC and hike through the woods looking for orchids, documenting them and checking them off. They remain to be some of the dearest memories I have.
During my university career I was interested in movements such as Minimalism and Conceptualism, I was drawn to the underlining meaning and the symbolic use of images. I have also been very drawn to simplicity and strong lines. As well as taking fine art courses I grew more and more interested in art history, specifically Indigenous art history. I decided to pursue another degree on top of my Fine Arts degree. During my art history academics I was encouraged by my professor to look into my past and research my family history. My family, on my mothers side, is Cree and Metis and I was interested in researching where my family came from. I discovered through this research that my great grandfather was a medicine man in Sturgeon Lake, Alberta reserve, this resonated deeply within me. When I was in my fourth year I really wanted to take what I had learned about my family and sew it into my practice. I was in an advanced drawing course and we were to spend the entire semester working on one project. I came up with the idea of making an installation using framed watercolour drawings. The drawings were of botanicals from across North America that were used in indigenous medicine. This piece was entitled The Place. On the outside facing the viewer were grid drawings to symbolize my previous years of minimalistic interest and on the inside were botanical watercolour drawings of indigenous medicinal plants.
During my last year I grew more and more interested in westernization and colonialization, I developed a great interest and respect for Aboriginal art history. Artist's like Recebba Belmore, Carl Beam, Kent Monkman, Nadia Myre, Brian Jungen, and so many more, were, and continue to be, incredibly inspiring to my practice and my thoughts. After my first semester in fourth year I got a scholarship to go to South Africa and participate in the Art in School Initiative. I was given a studio space and assigned to work on something for the next few months. I decided to take my interest in colonization and apply it to a South African context. I used South African botanicals to tell the story of colonization and westernization. I made Botany Colonized during my months in South Africa. There is a total of 42 pieces, all pieces have two layers. The first layer is a watercolour drawing of an invading plant, it is painted in a traditional botanical illustration style to symbolize the English and Dutch colonial regime of South Africa. The second layer is a lino print of a endangered indigenous plant, I used the lino cut print in white ink to symbolize some of the traditional motifs of South African art. The white layer is hard to see and thus engaging with the idea of extinction.
About a year after I made Botany Colonized I got a placement at the NSCAD Community Residency in Lunenburg, NS. The residency gave me a great platform and space to produce work. I decided I wanted to explore the same sort of idea as Botany Colonized but in a North American context. I believe that there is a connection between the indigenous plants nearing extinction and how traditional aboriginal ways of life have almost vanished within our modern day society. The westernization of North America has exterminated a traditional way of life for Native North Americans. The residential school regime, reserve relocation, the stealing of land, the banning of traditional ceremonies, and so many other horrors that these people have endured, are just some of the reasons these people struggle to be seen. This, to me, is similar to how these plants have been nearing extinction, these plants are all endangered because of the expansion of rural and urban areas, because of the growth in agriculture and the carelessness of our society. I used these botanical paintings to tell the story of not only the demies of a beautiful ecosystem but also the demies of a beautiful way of life.
I thought I would post some photos of Erin and I's final show at the NSCAD Community Residency in Lunenburg. The show is titled FLUX. We named the show FLUX because we believe that as emerging artists we are constantly in flux. As we develop we take advantage of every opportunity to produce work. It feels as though we are constantly evolving and changing, moving and exploring, so we can produce work and do what we love. I am not sure if being an established artist is any different than life as an emerging artist but I hope to always stay in motion. I hope I always find myself evolving and changing to produce work and do what I love.
This was the biggest project I have ever completed, it was enormous, challenging, fun and extremely rewarding.
In early April I was contacted by the owners of Luvly (the store I work at here in Lunenburg) Leslie and Brian, to see if I was interested in designing a mural for the Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic. Leslie is the brains behind Lunenburg Community Network (LCN) which "develops and supports collaborative initiatives across sectors that contribute to community sustainability". Leslie and Hilda Russel, of the Fisheries Museum, had been discussing opening up the Lunenburg waterfront, where the museum is located.
The ultimate idea for this project was to open the waterfront to the public and make it an inviting and welcoming space for the community and visitors . The museum worked with Terry and TJ from Waterfront Development to draft some ideas; part of their final designs and decisions was to have a mural on the pavement that would outline the public space and draw people to the area. As the LCN does it gathered the organizations together to get the ball rolling for this project. The organizations involved were Board of Trade, Waterfront Development, the Town of Lunenburg, First Impressions, the Fisheries Museum of Atlantic and NSCAD Community Residency Program. After hearing about this project I was really excited to get started. I was excited because rarely, as an emerging artist, you given the space to do something as massive as this. The space for the mural is 61 metres in length and 9 metres in width, a total amount of 4000 square feet.
Following the preliminary meeting with Leslie and Brian, Leslie set up out first meeting with the Fisheries Museum staff to discuss what their ideas were for the mural and the space. Prior to this year the Fisheries wharf was fenced, this was one aspect that the new plan for the waterfront was going to address. The fence came down opening the waterfront up to the public in early June. This would provide a more open and inviting space for people to enjoy. The museum wanted to celebrate the opening of the wharf during the Be a Tourist in Your Own Town - a new event that offered discounts and special events to the people of Lunenburg just before the tourist season was in full swing. The idea was to get locals out in their own community and enjoy their town, with everything it has to offer. Be a Tourist in Your Own Town let you eat out at the best restaurants with a discount, go on a free walking tour to hear the history and stories of your town, kayaking tours were discounted, the Fisheries Museum opened their doors to the public free of charge that day and the list went on. You could experience all the tourist joys right at home. This weekend was also the unveiling of the murals design to the town of Lunenburg.
During the meetings with Fisheries staff it became clear that they wanted something interpretive, colourful and a design incorporating whales, specifically the blue whale. It was important for the staff to have something they could use while showcasing the museum and something that beautified the space.
At first the museum staff wanted me to incorporate all the whales found in the atlantic; fin whale, blue whale, humpback, orcas, right whale and sperm whales. At first the museum staff wanted me to include all whales in a colourful design. When I sat down and looked at the outline of the space I knew it was going to be impossible to fit all whales in this narrow space. If I were to add all the whales into the design the space would look cluttered and messy. So I focused my attention on one whale for the design. I also had to keep in mind that the museum staff would be maintaining the mural in the years to come, so the design had to be simple enough for someone to touch it up at the beginning of the season.
I came up with a few rough sketches and brought them into our next meeting. We were caught between two designs but we decided to go with the design that had the full outline of the blue whale and fun geometric designs. Here is the evolution in pictures of the design.
Even though this mural seems very different from my usual practice it has elements that are very relevant to the work I do in my studio. For one the male blue whale is going extinct in the Atlantic. In my botanical drawings and paintings my subjects are always plants that are endangered or extinct. The mural also contains strong use of squares which is a form that is reoccurring in my work for some time now. We were all very happy with the final design and we were all very excited to start the mural itself.
Layout & Execution
Gillian Maradyn was my partner in all this, she was my main women. Gillian is a student at NSCAD University focusing on ceramics and she works for the LCN during the summer months. Gillian organized all the material sourcing, documenting, and volunteer recruiting and organizing. It was awesome having Gillian working with me, because all the organizing was in her capable hands and I was able to focus on executing the mural completely and work my two jobs. I can't thank her enough.
With over 23 volunteers and a combined 95 hours of work we finished the mural in the first two weeks of July. It was an amazing effort from all the volunteers, Lunenburg Community Network, Fisheries Museum of Atlantic, Waterfront Development, Board of Trade, First Impressions and Gillian and myself. I hope this project leads to others like it and I hope you can all go and see it soon! Here's a video made by one of our amazing volunteers Steve Sim.
In Lunenburg we are lucky to have such an engaged community. Ideas are easily spread through peers and neighbours. People band together and support one another until the idea comes to fruition.
This is sort of what happened with the Lunenburg bouldering wall at the community centre. Robin Scott had the idea of an after school program centred around rock climbing. It took him months to jump through all the necessary hoops but finally construction started at the end of 2014. The first I heard about the bouldering wall was at the dog park. I see the same faces, both dog and owner, quite often and acquaintances become friends quickly. One of my friends mentioned that the bouldering wall needed to be painted and that if I was interested I should contact Robin. So that's just what I did.
It was a great opportunity to engage with the community and to be honest I've never had the chance to paint something so big. As an artist I try to challenge myself in different ways, whether it be in my own practice or in a more community, collaborative environment. As a emerging artist I am not set on a specific environment, I don't know whether I prefer collaborative projects to personal studio projects, whether I enjoy commissions more than self directed works. Fortunately being an artist in resident allows me to explore both the collaborative and independent art expressions.
I had a great time painting the wall and it was even more fun seeing all the people who came down on opening day to try out the wall.