I have the great privilege of having been chosen, along with 5 other Fort McMurray artists, to represent our region in the Art Gallery of Alberta's Travelling Exhibition program. Our exhibition has been called Beyond 'the Patch': Stories From Wood Buffalo. The submission process took place before the wildfire of May 2016 and we were notified of our successful applications during the evacuation. I was already excited to be able to share the natural beauty of the Wood Buffalo I know and love but the works we would create had even more significance in our post-fire reality.
What an honour to showcase the beauty and heart of our region with this exhibition. Our artwork is travelling around the province for the next year, acting as ambassadors to tell a more accurate and balanced story of Wood Buffalo. My home is special and unique - and we do a lot of things differently. Our oil industry is the oil sands (not 'the patch') and that land is reclaimed over time. We are resilient, generous and community minded. Our multi-cultural diversity is celebrated, with people who are born and raised here and others who have travelled from all around the province, country, and world to be here. This is a place of great opportunity with the ability to take risks and experience growth. And our beauty- that’s undeniable - we can take a walk through Birchwood Trails, a drive up the winter road to Fort Chipewyan, go kayaking on Gregoire Lake, or spend a night star gazing with the aurora dancing overhead. It's amazing. The whole, balanced story of beauty and stillness, hope and opportunity, vibrancy and diversity - has, by and large, been neglected by the media. But, our collective works will give you another look because our Wood Buffalo exudes all of these characteristics and more. And hopefully, as these paintings, drawings and photographs travel, others will learn how special we are too. Wood Buffalo most certainly has life and soul in and ‘beyond the patch’.
The following photographs were my contribution to the exhibition. In the months after we returned home after the wildfire evacuation, the boreal forest was undergoing a remarkable and stunning recovery. It served to many of us a symbol of resilience and rebirth.
Resilience: Morning on the Athabasca Watching the mist lifting off the Athabasca River on this cool autumn morning was a soul-stirring experience. I desired to capture the light and hope of this moment, with the gull soaring high over a changed landscape.
Resilience: Juvenile Bald Eagle In the fall of 2016 this lovely Juvenile Bald Eagle made his presence known in a section of completely burnt out forest. It was an area my husband and I had explored plenty of times and when the forest was thick with conifers we wondered how much wildlife was watching us while we were completely unaware! With the branches bare we were grateful for the opportunity to enjoy this young eagle's company and overjoyed to see signs of wildlife returning.
Resilience: Pine Grosbeak This image, of a puffed up Pine Grosbeak and a perfect heart shaped leaf was made on a very cold December day. So cold, in fact, that we had an extreme cold weather warning. The beauty in every season must be found if one is to thrive in a Northern winter.
Resilience: Fireweed Living up to its namesake, the Fireweed was more plentiful and vibrant the summer after the wildfire than I had ever seen. Even though the forest floor was completely charred and black, within days of the fire, new shoots were springing through the ash and soot. We had never seen such vibrant greens. By the end of the summer entire fields of Fireweed, up to 5 feet tall, were emerging all around us.