The Craft Project

True North Strong and Free

True_North_Strong_And_Free_Facebook

On Thursday I opened my first solo exhibition since my daughter was born – True North Strong and Free. The exhibit is installed at the Hilltop Bistro at Yukon College (500 College Drive, Whitehorse, Yukon) until May.

For those of you hoping to get a chance to check the show out in-person, the Bistro is open for lunch Wednesday through Friday with seating available at 11:00am, 11:15am, 11:30am, 11:45am, 12:00 noon, 12:15pm, and 12:30pm. Reservations are recommended, and can be made at bistroreservations@yukoncollege.yk.ca (their food is very good).

For those of you who are unable to check the show out in-person I thought I’d share it with you digitally here. You’ll find the exhibition write-up below followed by images and descriptions of each piece.

For sales enquiries you can contact me directly: amber@akstudios.ca, 867-335-4884.

Exhibition Description

True North Strong and Free

Since the birth of my daughter three years ago my family and I have been traversing Canada, trying to instill in her a sense of the scope and diversity of the country we call home. In so doing we have encountered a number of stunning vistas, the like of which bring people from around the world to our doorstep. There is an inherent juxtaposition in many of these areas that we lose when viewed through our Instagram feeds however; that the stunning natural beauty and ecological importance of these regions that exists in parallel with the imminent threats putting so many of these areas at severe risk. This exhibition brings the darker side of these iconic landscapes into the limelight – be that logging practices in Haida Gwaii, glacier recession in the Rockies, fish stocks in Newfoundland, or legal battles for protection here at home in the Yukon. The work marries art, science and policy; often incorporating scientific data and research directly into the work to help tell the stories of the work. Each mixed media piece in the series is made up of deeply layered ink and watercolour works sometimes augmented with polymer clay or resin to bring the work beyond the 2D space and into the viewer’s space in order to engage the viewer from different angles and to break through the natural barrier between the work and outside world.

For in-progress shots of some of the works that my art Instagram feed: https://www.instagram.com/amberchurchart/

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Welcome to the Edge of the World

Ink, watercolour, acrylic and polymer clay on canvas

$1500

36″ x 36″

The natural and cultural heritage of Haida Gwaii looms large in the imaginations of people around the world. When you travel through the archipelago the islands breathe with biodiversity and the connections between the Haida people and the landscape confronts you at every turn. But you also come face-to-face with the impact of logging on this sacred space. You travel logging roads to traverse the landscape and as you do, you can’t hide from the extensive clear cuts and slash piles. The juxtaposition of the intrinsic beauty of the archipelago with the stark reality of the region’s extensive logging history was the story I needed to tell after spending time on the islands. In the map featured in this piece, areas of solid red denote regions where 50% or more has been cut, solid yellow denotes a cut of between 15% – 50%, and green outlines mark the archipelago’s protected areas (data from the BC Ministry of Forests).

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The Necessity of Wildness

Ink, watercolour and acrylic on canvas

$1500

36″ x 36″

We are used to looking at maps, and of making sense of our world, through human-made, political boundaries. I chose to instead look at my home nation through natural boundaries – dividing Canada by ecoregions instead of by provincial and territorial boundaries. Canadians are often proud of our network of protected areas designed to help conserve the natural diversity of our country; certainly I am, as someone who grew up as a “Parks Canada brat” with a family working for our national parks agency. It can be jarring, then, to see how little of the country our national parks protect (the green hatched areas within this work). Even when you add in all of the provincial and territorial protected areas and areas protected by other conservation areas, the sum you arrive at is 11.2%. There is a growing number of scientists and conservationists who firmly believe that the natural world requires 50% protection to stem the ecological crisis we currently face. In the near future, we as Canadians will need to reconcile these two disparate values.

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Currents of the Peel Watershed

Ink, watercolour, acrylic and polymer clay on canvas

Sold

36″ x 36″

Yukon’s Peel Watershed is one of the world’s largest areas of pristine, un-roaded wilderness. The region’s conservation has been swirling at the center of a land use planning process and court battle which carried it to the Supreme Court of Canada. It is now impossible to divorce the incredibly moving experience of traversing the landscape from the legal fight to protect it which is why this piece incorporates language from the Supreme Court decision into the waters flowing through the work and in the background landscape that ties the mountains and stones of the watershed to the outside world.

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Long May Your Jib Draw

Ink, watercolour and acrylic on canvas

$1500

36″ x 36″

On July 2, 1992, the Canadian government imposed a moratorium on the Northern cod fishery along Canada’s east coast. By this point the stocks had fallen to 1% of their historic levels due to decades of over-fishing. The closure ended almost 500 years of fishing activity in Newfoundland and Labrador, where it put about 30,000 people out of work. Fish plants closed, boats remained docked, and hundreds of coastal communities that had depended on the fishery for generations watched their economic and cultural mainstay disappear overnight. To help mitigate these negative impacts all levels of government have been investing heavily in tourism, including the creation of impressive trail networks in many rural communities. The Dare Devil Trail in Saint Anthony’s is an example of this industrious trail design, with 400 steps leading up the side of a cliff to overlook the North Atlantic in all its grandeur. In the midst of a downpour, my husband, infant daughter and I climbed those stairs and arrived at the cliff edge just as two bowhead whales entered the bay. The vantage angle was so steep, and the water was so clear, that we were able to observe the whales completely – both above and below the water. It was profoundly moving, but it was not lost on us that the experience was made possible, in-part, through the continued hardships resulting from the loss of the fishery. “Long may your jib draw” expresses a good wish for the future and I express it here for Newfoundland and Labrador and their people. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada predicts that the cod fishery may recover to historical, sustainable levels by 2030.

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Where are the Snows of Yesteryear?

Ink, watercolour, acrylic and resin on canvas

$1500

36″ x 36″

The Columbia Icefield, the largest icefield in the Rocky Mountains, houses Snow Dome. The mountain is one of two hydrological apexes of North America; it is a major triple divide between three great drainage basins. Water falling on Snow Dome’s summit may flow into streams that drain into the Pacific Ocean (via the Columbia River), the Arctic Ocean (via the Athabasca River), and Hudson Bay (via the North Saskatchewan River). The Icefield, as one of the most accessible glaciers in North America, also attract on average 1.2 million visitors a year to marvel at its beauty and grandeur. These visitors are treated to more than just the majesty of the icefields; they also are observers of its demise in real-time as the glaciers continue to rapidly retreat in the face of climate change. The work highlights historic retreat in black, presenting the areal extent of the Columbia Icefields in 1935, 1992 and 2010. The predictions for the Columbia Icefields total area in 2050 and 2100 are presented in blue and red, respectively (data from Garry Clarke).

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The Ghosts of the Forest

Ink, watercolour and acrylic on canvas

Sold

16″ x 20″

Jasper National Park has long been known as one of the jewels of the Rockies – attracting visitors for generations to experience its soaring peaks, emerald lakes, powerful waterfalls and deep forests. In recent years, with increasing winter temperatures, the forests that blanket much of Jasper’s landscape in a cloak of green have been changing. The park has not been immune to the Mountain Pine Beetle infestation that has ravished many forests throughout British Columbia and Alberta. At last estimate 30% of Jasper’s lodgepole pine trees have been colonized by the beetles, meaning that visitors will need to get used to more and more red slopes blanketing the park’s iconic vistas.

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See the World Through an Instagram Filter

Ink, watercolour and acrylic on canvas

$400

16″ x 20″

In 2017-2018 Banff National Park received 4.2 million visitors. That is a 28% increase over the 2012-2013 season where the park saw 3.3 million. We are loving our protected areas to death – with increased visitation comes an increase in a swath of other challenges impacting the ecological integrity, sustainability and health of our parks. I fear with the rise of Instagram and digital photography the impact of this increased visitation pressure is not being offset by the benefits of meaningful and transformational experiences for visitors to the level it once was. My family recently took a trip to the Rockies to scatter a portion of my father’s ashes at Lake O’Hara in Yoho National Park where he had served as superintendent. We took a couple of weeks to introduce my daughter, niece and nephew to the landscape that my brother and I had grown up in. There are still many ways to immerse yourself in the power of the Rockies, even with the huge number of visitors who make the pilgrimage to Banff, Jasper, Yoho and Kootenay each year, but the number of visitors choosing to make the effort to search out those experiences is limited. In an extreme example my brother and mother had the disturbing experience of watching a perpetual line of visitors queue-up beside a specific tree at Emerald Lake to take the exact same photograph as an Instagram influencer. The fact that one can find a spectacular, uninterrupted – and God forbid, unique – view anywhere along Emerald Lake’s circumference, makes the story that much more disheartening and begs the question – how many people are journeying to these treasured landscapes and then never really seeing them?

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Increasing Shadows on the Landscape

Ink, watercolour and acrylic on canvas

$400

16″ x 20″

Retrogressive thaw slumps – landslides caused by the melt of ground ice in permafrost – have become more common in the Arctic. On Banks Island, a 60-fold increase in numbers of such slumps between 1984 and 2015 has occurred, primarily following four particularly warm summers. The work highlights the areas impacted by slumping in 1984 and in the significantly wider area impacted in 2015 (data from Antoni Lewkowicz).

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Where Have All the Flowers Gone?

Ink, watercolour and acrylic on canvas

$400

16″ x 20″

Pollinators, including bees, butterflies, moths and other insects, across the Canadian Prairies have seen severe declines in recent years, with some species enduring 50% population losses. Reduced numbers of pollinators puts these prairie ecosystems at risk, and with them a core region of Canada’s food production. Crops that depend on the work of pollinators include tree and berry fruit, canola, alfalfa, squash, and melon. Multiple factors acting in combination may be at play, including loss of habitat and food sources, diseases, viruses and pests, and pesticide exposure.

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Forging a Path

Ink, watercolour and acrylic on canvas

$400

16″ x 20″

Animals don’t tend to stay in boxes, and they have no way to know when their travels are taking them outside the boundaries of protected areas. A single radio-collared grizzly bear has been tracked travelling between Yellowstone National Park all the way to the Yukon in a single season. Recognizing this, there is a need to plan protected areas to take connectivity and wildlife corridors into account. We need to make sure that we think about landscapes as paths that our fellow species journey along. One model for doing this is the Yellowstone to Yukon initiative.

 

 

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