Things That I Have Seen


Things That I Have Seen

This summer I completed three series of mixed media works that focus on what I consider to be extraordinary sites on the Bruce Peninsula.  Elements of landscape, bird and animal life, flowers and trees along with various kinds of human interventions come together to make these areas exceptional and noteworthy.  My own experiences of these places and spaces derive from careful recording through sketching and photography but also include an imaginary re-ordering of elements to create works that are both realistic and playful.

1)    Mandalas for the Cottage

 There are three drawings in this series that are intended to be viewed as contemporary mandalas.  Constructed arrangements of shapes and colours form the basis of thesecollage drawingsin pastel, ink and pencil on paper.  Circular focal points are created using the traditional aboriginal art-form of birch bark biting.These and other circles are core elements of the works and each provides a means of seeing as a porthole might do.  Byvisually bringing aspects of the outdoors in we can extend indefinitely our appreciation of what lies beyond our cottage walls.  Such windows on the natural world can provide a way of looking out andalso a way of looking in thus opening up the possibilities inherent inthe act of seeing.

2)    Boulder Beach Series

As visual compilations of boulder beach phenomena these works emerged directly from what caught my eye during Bay-side walks on the Peninsula particularily in Dyers Bay.  As personal adaptations of what actually goes on in this part of the world they are my own version of events told in a storyboard format. Of particular interest are the ways in which humans have historically used local beach boulders in constructing things of importance to them  —   chairs, walls and firepits.  The usefulness of this local building material is in evidence everywhere.  And humans are not the only onesoccupying and even repurposing the local geology.  The boulders serve as hiding places, perches and sunning spots for insects, birds, snakes and flowers.  In their constructed forms the boulders create close to white illuminated focal points in the landscape that can be enjoyed by all.  And because the contours of the beach are ever-changing due to ice, wind and wave action even though the boulders as core constituents are not (or so it seems to us) this environment provides a way of experiencing the wonders of a natural world in motion along with the ageless solidity of a very distant rocky past.

3)    Bruce Caves Series

Like many people, my first experience of the caves of the Bruce Peninsula was the Grotto at Cypress Lake.  Along with dozens of visitors I watched as a line of brave swimmers descended a thirty foot cliff, then waited their turn to complete the shallow dive through a narrow underwater tunnel leading to Georgian Bay.  Some completed this adventurous exercise whileothers didn’t, but everybody in attendance was treated to the ever-changing array of forms and colours that comprises this rockyunderwater world.  As it happens, there are many kinds of caves on the Bruce Peninsula, some accessible by land others only by boat.The limestone configurations of this portion of the Niagara escarpment provide many possibilities for cave formation and exploration.

Since the earliest times, caveshave been used as homes by humans and other creatures.  Metaphorically, they have symbolized a variety of things, frightening as well as benign.  The dark interiority of cavestriggers the imagination.  Alternately safe and scary and essentially unknowable they conjure up images of rare geological phenomena, riches of one sort or another which can only be reached by undertaking a potentially labyrinthine journey.

The three works I have completed this year are likely only the beginning.  My interest in caves and what they meanto me continues.  For now, I present three points of view:  a) the cave as a theatrical place whose dark crystalline interior can only be truly illuminated once a month by the refracted spotlight beam of a full moon b) the cave as a destination, whose core is reachable,but only by those who can cross mental and emotional as well as natural barriers 3) the cave as symbolic of the feminine principle, home to women, the woman-cave as compared to the man-cave.

Delwyn Higgens

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