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.
Connect/Contact: this is the land of my ancestors exhibited at the Anna Leonowens Gallery in Halifax, Nova Scotia, from July 24 - 29, 2017
These paintings depict plants across North America that are nearing extinction. They visually represent the act of disappearing due to human interactions and conflicts. The title, It’s Bigger Than This…, reflects notions during the development stages of this series. Ideas that generated from issues and thoughts surrounding globalization, cultural and social assimilation, westernization, and urban and rural development, helped form this series.
Fragments is a series of paintings I am currently working on. It is a reintroduction into the practice of painting since I haven't had a painting studio to practice in for over a year. Fragments deconstructs the body into fragments of a person, these paintings are meant to explore the figure little by little.
Botany Colonized was produced while I was participating in the Art in Schools Initiative in South Africa. This piece uses botany as a vehicle to visually represent notions of colonization, westernization and globalization. This piece is meant to visually portray the colonial regime; how invading plants have entered into the unique eco system of South Africa and have taken over and have thus pushed the indigenous plants out.
There are two layers to each piece (35 pieces in total). The first layer is a water color painting of an invading plant – the style of the water color layer is reminiscent of plant illustrations done by explorers in the 1700s and 1800s. The second layer is a lino-cut print, printed in mate white over top if the watercolor. The lino-cut is an image of an indigenous plant that has been affected by the presence of the invading plant.
Each drawing/print is framed using two pieces of glass that are adhered with silicon. This choice to display them between two plates of glass is to symbolize anthropology; that being biological, archeological and cultural scientific practices of anthropology. Anthropologist document, dissect, distinguish and categorize cultures, plants, races, bones and anything that pertains to human existence. I wanted the display of these drawing/prints to resemble glass plates used under microscopes.
They were then displayed in a long row with the scientific names and origins of each plant.
The Scarcity of Craft was a piece based around reclaiming, it explored weaving as a traditional craft but in a contemporary way, in that I used the cube as a shape of the weaved object. I wanted to reconnect with the aboriginal community in a way that seemed very natural and traditional.
My mother has become very involved in the aboriginal community in and around Vancouver so I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and learn something new from the community. My mom asked a friend, who is a master weaver, if she would be able to teach us how to cedar weave. Cedar weaving was used to make baskets, hats and cradles on the west coast of North America. We spent an afternoon weaving with local weavers in a circle, listening to stories and learning from each other. This was a moment that I felt the most connect with my Cree and Metis ancestral heritage.
This piece consists of 16 weaved cubes and the rest are plastic clones that overshadow the cedar pieces in the background. This installation is commenting on the westernization of products and the take over of western manufacturing developments within North America. Mass production is something that has become the norm and hand made objects are scarcely found within the Americas.
The original idea for The Place was to explore ways to fuse my aesthetic interests, such as geometric shapes, repetition and my love for the minimalist movement, and my academic interests in my personal history and ancestry as well as the history of aboriginals around the world and the affects of the colonial regime. This was when I started taking an interest in my ancestral background and starting to form questions around identity, and how I could use my personal experiences and history to form concepts in my work. The Place was the beginning of the materialization of my exploration into notions of identity.
The Place is a deconstruction of a childhood hiding place (a wardrobe closet) that I would visit in times I wished to be alone. When I was young there was a time, for a few years, that I didn’t have a bedroom, I slept in the living room of a tiny apartment with my mom and sister. During this time the closet was the only place I could be truly alone.
The installation is both accessible and inaccessible in its construction; this is to symbolize the notion of a memory – how a memory can be so vivid but completely untouchable, referring to the memory of the closet. The exterior panels consist of one layer of Stonehenge paper and two sheets of mylar. Together these layers form a repetitious and geometric design. This outer shell is used to symbolize my university experience as a growing artist, while the interior symbolizes my internal growth as a someone exploring their own notions of identity. The interior of the piece has 24 different water color images of indigenous plants that grow across the Americas. These plants have been used for centuries by aboriginal medicine men. The idea to use plants as symbols of my ancestry came from my great grandfather being a medicine man in Northern Alberta.