Russian Exhibition & Residency

As some of you know, I am currently preparing for an exhibition and art residency in Russia. We, my husband and I, have finally had all our paperwork approved and just received our passports back from the Russian Consulate—each with an elaborate Russian Federation visa inside!05_vanNetten_BlindHumpbackWhale_2017

My mind is racing! Going over the exhibition in my mind, making sure I have everything. Drawings—yes. Installation—yes. Tiny nails—yes. Yet there remains a mountain of a list that still needs to be completed.

I have never been to Russia before, so I am not sure what to expect. My grandfather (and the rest of my ancestors) immigrated to Canada from RussiaI wonder if I will feel a connection to the landscape as they did.

karelia-republic-mapThe place that we will be staying is called Petrozavodsk (Петрозаводск). It is the capital city of the Republic of Karelia and is located 5 hours north-east of Saint Petersburg via train. The city is strategically situated along the shores of Lake Onega, the second largest lake in Europe. According to archeological discoveries, there have been signs of people living within the area of the current city limits for the past seven thousand years. In 1703 Tsar Peter the Great founded a settlement here because of the rich iron deposits. He created a factory to manufacture cannons and anchors for his new fleet of ships and called the settlement Petrovskaya Sloboda. The city was often called Petrovsky Zavod, meaning Peter’s factory, which later became Petrozavodsk.

The residency is through AiR Karalia and the exhibition will be held at the Vyhod Media Centre. I am looking forward to exploring Russia, meeting the lovely people I have been in contact with and spending a month focusing on and working on art.

I will write more about the exhibition and my residency project in upcoming posts.





Whales, Beetles and Bees

I have been enjoying making whale specimen boxes lately.  There is something satisfying in creating art that lives inside mini environments, encasements and packages. I have been wanting to make this particular piece for a long time: a specimen box containing the common whales seen along the costs of British Columbia.  I remember when I first started researching whales of BC I was surprised that I wasn’t familiar with all the species—especially the smaller ones. Media and news stories tend to focus on “popular” whales, whale stars, like the humpback and orca. The whales in this piece are (from top to bottom, left to right): grey whale, humpback whale, minke whale, pacific white sided dolphin, dall’s porpoise and harbor porpoise. I find the variance of size so interesting!

Speaking of size… here are some images of smaller, more common creatures in specimen boxes that I found on the internet: bees, butterflies and beetles (below). There is something so exciting about the idea of collecting, organizing and carefully preserving each individual (with its quirks). It is interesting to see the many methods of organizing and designing patterns in which the insects are displayed: from formal, military rows to  theatrical, playful placements.

If you had told me a couple years ago that I would be comparing whales with bugs in my art, I never would have believed you.


Reflections on Threshold

A ‘threshold’ is a temporary place in which a person merely passes through. It is an place in between places. A transition. Ephemeral. This word signifies a transient or fading quality in our work, in our subject matter and as we transition out from being students.

Threshold just ended on Friday. The curatorial committee did an excellent job hanging the work and bringing together five very different artist’s work in a way that complimented every piece.  It has been a huge pleasure to spend this past year working with these artists and watching their work take form, develop, and distill. Congratulations Ann Connelly, Joanne Hewko, Judy Reed and Nicola Rendell on creating and bringing together such moving work and also for graduating! I look forward to see where art will lead you next!

Threshold (10)

This photo is of a piece I made for Threshold called Whaling. For this work I “whaled” all the whale-words from a copy of Melville’s Moby Dick, catalogued them into different species and separated them into bottles. For more photos this exhibition click here.


The Vaquita

vaquita-karel-havlicek-ngs-exp-0917A couple months ago I had to opportunity to become involved with a show that will be opening at the end of April in the Robert Bateman Centre. For the show, called Endangered Species The Next Migration, the artists were asked to make art relating to an endangered animal from a provided list. So many of these animals I have never heard of before! I chose the Vaquita, a porpoise that lives exclusively in a small, northern section of the Sea of Cortes. Porpoises usually live in cold water, but this species lives in warm water and uses their overly large dorsal fin to disperse excess heat. They are also the smallest in the porpoise family, reaching a length of only five feet. These mammals have distinctly dark patches around their eyes and their mouth, with a streak leading from their lower jaw to their pectoral fins. Only discovered in 1958, it is estimated that there are less than 100 Vaquitas alive today.  This week I left my pieces with one of the organizers of the exhibition. I am really looking forward to seeing this show and being introduced to more animals I don’t know (and the artists too of course).

Studio Blog

This painting below is in progress. Lately I have been contemplating the possibility of the whale’s silhouette to become a land form. In fact… the whale is a form of land. Let me explain. I recently was reading about a creature that lives on whales and uses them as a stand in for an inter-tidal zonethe barnacle. Because whales breath air they must continually  surface, functioning, to the barnacle, like a rock at low tide.