The Alberta Legislative Assembly Office operates a beautiful retail store called Alberta Branded. Each year they have a juried showcase around a specific theme and I have the honour of being one of ten Albertan artists who will create new works for this year's exhibition. The theme is Façonner, which means to shape, fashion or mould. New works will be created all year long and I'm eager to continue to explore the theme, allowing it to unfold and adapt over these next months. I'm also quite intrigued to see the works of the other artists and how they have approached the theme from their own medium and point of view!
Façonner: We shape to adapt a form, thereby directing a course. We fashion to reflect personal style and the current nature of the world. We mould to influence, creating a matrix. - Alberta Branded
The artwork I have created (and will continue to create this year) for Façonner is rooted in natural elements. Each piece is formed in response to the unfolding story I see revealed to us through Creation. Extracting basic lines and shapes from the intricate natural world, I explore an elemental approach to my experiences. Observing light, colours, shapes and lines, the subjects are deconstructed then fashioned into layered mixed media artworks. Natural materials (like birch bark and wildflowers collected to dye fabric and paper) are incorporated into each piece along with conventional materials (like acrylic, watercolour, paper and clay). The process of gathering and preparing materials allows me to infuse more of what I encounter into each work.
My story reflects the observations and reflections within the beauty of the Province of Alberta, including our five National Parks and my home in the Northern boreal forest. As I continue to witness the unfolding story around me, I am left with a peaceful clarity that has shaped my life. Reflecting these experiences and this clarity are integral parts of these works.
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.
I'm not sure if you've noticed my social media bio but it says this:
Artist | called to create, in any form necessary | wrestling fear, chasing beauty, pursuing peace | learning to rest at Jesus' feet
That last part - learning to rest at Jesus' feet - goes back to the account of Mary and Martha. It's a story I revisit often and one that I continue to receive the gift of fresh revelation as the years unfold. Two years ago I wrote about it here. And as we enter the season of Lent, I have been brought back to lovely Martha with fresh eyes (for I do think she is lovely, although misunderstood and quickly judged). I see afresh that the retreat happens in the midst of the to-do list. In the middle of preparing for the guests, in the middle of busy lives, in the middle of the mess, in the middle of our weaknesses... that is where the resting at Jesus' feet happens. I often considered it an all or nothing type scenario that had me wondering, "Who cleans the toilets if everyone's with Jesus?!" As much as I know it is so good to hang out in the garden, retreating with Jesus, I am convinced there's a way to also sit as His feet, receiving His peace, while I'm scrubbing away. Now I'm trying to navigate exactly what that looks like.
Tomorrow is the beginning of Lent: the 40 days before Easter (not including the Sundays). This season serves as a time of preparation and a reflection on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. What a perfect time to retreat. I am choosing to carve out more quiet space in my day and spend more reflective time in the studio. All of which will require a very intentional look at my schedule and a very mindful shift in perspective. I still have obligations and responsibilities and deadlines and demands and requests, but I'm determined to retreat in the middle of it all. The key to this, for me, is taking this time to create quietly. I've decided I'm not going to share what I'm creating... at least not during this lenten season. And perhaps, it will continue to be an entirely personal project - we shall see! I'm going to let it all unfold each day and savour those moments, unconcerned with perfection or a business plan. I'm not checking out, I'm just taking another step back in retreat. I'll still be checking messages and working, meeting those deadlines and interacting with fine folks - I'm just shifting gears for 40 days and hoping to learn a little more about resting at Jesus' feet.
Then Jesus said, “Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.”
A new year means many things to us. A fresh start, new opportunities, a clean slate, renewed goals, big dreams and the wonder of what is to come. I'm watching the Tournament of Roses parade right now, one of my own traditions for January 1st. The theme of this year's parade is, "Find Your Adventure" - what a great way to start off a year with active anticipation! We're not just bystanders in our lives, there certainly is an adventure before us, waiting to be found.
As much as I love the fresh start of January 1st, I have come to adopt the philosophy that every moment is a fresh start. The adventure of our lives is a collection of all these moments: good, bad and ugly - all working together to tell a story, all for a purpose. I wonder, what will the chapter about 2016 say?
What adventures await you this year? What are you leaving behind? I'd love to hear about your hopes and dreams for 2016! Here's to a peaceful, hopeful, joy-filled new year!
It has been a busy autumn, hasn't it? Sometimes it feels like you're drowning in the sea of your to-do list and you just don't know when you can take a break. "I have so much to do" becomes your recurring mental dialogue and you don't even know where to start most days.
I hear you.
Every time I get to this place I know it is time to schedule myself a time-out. I figure that time-outs aren't just for toddlers who've gotten themselves into mischief, but for busy adults who need to reset their focus too. I choose to rebel against that never-ending to-do list and take a breather. Goodness, even sitting quietly in the corner sounds like a welcome break! The punishment is not allowing myself to take that time-out, regroup and figure out what's really important.
And you know what's amazing about carving out the time for these moments of rest? I most often feel refreshed, more focused, calm and joyful. All from stopping for a minute to have a mug of tea in the corner! But, of course, the reset button really gets a reboot if I step outside. Last weekend I even dug the bike out of winter storage to make the most of out of my "time-out".
These images were created during a twilight outing with the photography club - a night where we had to scramble to get out the door in time, leaving a mess of dishes and a pile of unfinished tasks behind. But then, in the presence of good company, golden grass swaying in the breeze, and the glow of the setting sun, all those tasks were forgotten - if even just for a few moments. We lingered until long after most of the crew had already departed. And then, as we continued in fellowship, a magnificent Great Horned Owl flew over my shoulder. He perched himself on a branch that had us crouching low in order to view his silhouette but there he waited - just long enough for me to create an image before he was gone into the night.
If we had listened to that running mental dialogue about how we're too busy to do anything but work, this beautiful evening would have been just a dream. It has become one more affirmation to me from Heaven above, that I must carve out these moments for rest - a lesson that I relearn over and over and over. The tasks set before us are not just the busy things in our day but also moments of rest and stillness and restoration.
And on that note, I'm way past due for my time-out. When did you last carve out a moment for yours?
Hoar frost is one of the most beautiful sights. I watched the fog roll in the night before and woke up to a blanket of ice crystals. I ventured out and savoured the beauty around me, ever so mindful of the Christmas season and my desire to stay focused on what it's truly about.
You came like a winter snow
Quiet and soft and slow
Falling from the sky in the night
To the earth below
Audrey Assad: "Winter Snow"
The Miquwahkesis Project: Day One
Last month I submitted a proposal for "The Miquwahkesis Project", where artists were asked to design artwork for fibreglass fox sculptures that will be installed along a public path. (Note: Miquwahkesis is the word for "red fox" in Cree.) I am thrilled to have been among those chosen to participate in this public art installation! Now comes the challenge of taking my 2D design and translating it to the 3D sculpture.
I began on Monday, acquainting myself with my new fox friend, who I have affectionately named, "Foxy Loxy". There were challenges I expected and others that I had to troubleshoot before I begin painting later this week. My design has many layers so careful planning is a must. I'll be sharing the journey over the next couple of months as Foxy Loxy becomes dressed up in my design. I am looking forward to seeing the other selected artists at work too - the designs I've seen are wonderfully eclectic. What a great time to be part of the growing art community in Fort McMurray!
P.S. The red fox is a well-loved photography subject of mine. Here are three of my favourite images:
Still my heart, hold me close
Let me hear, a still small voice
Let it grow, let it rise
Into a shout, into a cry
I am restless, I'm restless
'Til I rest in You, let me rest in You
And I am restless, so restless
'Til I rest in You, 'til I rest in You,
Oh God, let me rest in You
"Restless" - Audrey Assad
Friday morning began in the dark.
A groggy caravan of creatives, headlamps lighting our way through the heavy fog, arrived on the shores of Lake Louise. Many of us had little to no sleep but I, for one, was more emotionally exhausted than any physical limitations I was feeling.
And this foggy morning, as I fought my own restless spirit, I found myself loving the metaphors in my surroundings - could God have ordered this up, just for me? (This is feeling very reminiscent!) I was immediately drawn to the light on the boathouse that cut through the darkness, calling me out of my own fogginess. It was breathtaking.
The fog continued to roll in and out - utterly delicious. I cathartically made my images as I explored the lakeshore and embraced the dawn of this new day.
One of the reasons that I love photographing the outside world is the perspective it gives me. I feel like nature just might be God's gift to us, to remind us who we are - to point us right to Him. And when I consider who I am in light of this Great God, everything is as it should be. It is then that I am grateful, peaceful, content... Since I am so easily distracted I am eager to put myself in the midst of the great outdoors as often as possible! (And on that note it's time to get off the computer and step outside. Below are a few images of my outdoor adventures this past week.)
I'm trying to work things out
I'm trying to comprehend
Am I the chance result
Of some great accident
I hear a rhythm call me
The echo of a grand design
I spend each night in the backyard
Staring up at the stars in the sky
Maybe this was made for me
For lying on my back in the middle of a field
Maybe that's a selfish thought
Or maybe there's a loving God
Sara Groves - "Maybe There's A Loving God"
Note: The previous video I embedded had resorted to a rough draft so here is a direct link to see the accurate video!
As I mentioned in my previous post, I have been planning and anticipating some night photography opportunities - one venture being a study in long exposures using the moving lights of carnival rides as my subjects. I am eagerly awaiting the next time "Sustainival" comes to town, as I have more ideas to execute! (I think I need to advocate for carnivals, fire dancers and fireworks displays every weekend - it's all so fun! Although, I imagine we may take it for granted then, wouldn't we?)
The majority of my night photography adventures have been sparked by our photography club's upcoming exhibit theme, "Night Shift: Photography From Dawn Until Dusk". I love a new goal as it lights a fire under you to get creating! I have really fallen in love with creating images after the sun sets. It's a totally different world and a whole new skill set to hone - the spark has been fanned into flame and I'm hooked!
If you have the opportunity, check out our exhibit this month, starting with the opening night next Thursday, October 9th. I am excited to see what images have been created by other club members who have sacrificed warmth and sleep to explore the world after dark!