This exhibition is in several ways a culmination of ten years of part-time cottage life that in itself has been quite a journey for us. In establishing our ‘home away from home’ at Dyers Bay on the Bruce Peninsula we have learned things that we could never have predicted, principally the wisdom in letting things ‘be’. This year more than any other it seems we have engaged in a form of creative orienteering that has lead us from here to there and back again.
The wild garden at M9 Contemporary is home to all kinds of birds, insects and animals over the summer months. There are both visitors and year-round residents who make their presences felt in various ways. The daring acrobatic activity of hummingbirds and dragonflies contrasts with the gentle meanderings of butterflies and moths against an ever changing backdrop of grasses, flowers and trees. This year’s sculpture and outdoor installations rise out of the natural habitat of Dyers Bay. They contain found local objects including rock, tree branches and other plant materials. But what amplifies this work in an already rich surrounding environment is the addition of human-made elements such as carved wooden spoons, a cast iron teepee/bungalow and life-size aluminum oars and paddles. The wooden spoons signify human nourishment at its most basic level. They hold painted cast plastic birds and insects suspended on dried burdock stems but also a collection of fossils that indicate great age being the formative elements of the millions year old Niagara Escarpment. These petrified coral configurations map out areas of a long time past but the fact that such ancient life forms are paired with more recent replications of wildlife means that a link between past and present has been established. The fact that the sculpture has been a magnet for passing birds and insects that are attracted to the work and tend to perch on it reinforces this association in real time. The use of aluminum in the outdoor installations creates a site that is illuminated by the sun during the day, but the work attains a whole new level of brilliance at night under the moon. At this point a sense of the garden as a very special place in the entire scheme of things becomes clear and the artwork facilitates this universal connection.
Parallel with the development of the sculpture and site installations at M9 was the making of several indoor wall works using ink and pastel on limestone, canvas, paper and wood. These drawings emerged gradually over the summer beginning with a series of reductive abstract sketches I did of the various roads leading to our cottage and culminating in more fanciful representations of local phenomena, flora and fauna in relation to the greater beyond that is so much in evidence in the Dyers Bay night sky. Being one of the only dark sky preserves in Canada the Bruce Peninsula attracts photographers, astronomy buffs and teachers who host nightly viewing events at various points on the peninsula. As an interested layperson I soon became hooked buying my own telescope so that I could experience stargazing from our cottage deck. Having begun with the idea of tracing the highways and byways from here (Toronto) to there (Dyers Bay) I ended up in a very different place following the shifting paths of the planets and constellations of the summer sky. So the resultant works are compilations of observations and are a little surreal in appearance containing vestigial representations of Ontario’s roadways along with a range of celestial phenomena including constellations both real and imagined, comets, spiral galaxies, nebulae and on and on. As with the sculpture plants, birds, insects and animals figure into these works but their presence is inevitably mediated by the larger existence of the cosmos of which they are a part.
Like the blue bear who finds himself out on an unfamiliar limb gazing into the deep space of a limestone slab, or the small bronze owl sitting on the branch of a now defunct birch tree counting the years as they pass we find ourselves reconsidering our place in the world. Because we are human this goes beyond simple considerations of here and there, then and now and leads directly to various perceptions of what constitutes ‘home’ versus a ‘home away from home’. Truisms such as: ‘home is where the heart is’ only obfuscate the situation. What becomes increasingly clear is that this particular duality is more apparent than real and that by thinking in this way we miss the message entirely. Indications point to the fact that we really are already here, there and everywhere all at once all the time.