Ancient Forest Futures” captures the strength of ancient forests under threat
Artists reflect on BC’s ancient forests in new exhibition at Legacy Art Gallery
At the end of last month, the art exhibition Still Standing: The Future of Ancient Forests opened at the Legacy Art Gallery, reflecting our relationship with the ancient forests of British Columbia Curated by Jessie Demers, the exhibition brings together works by 12 artists, bridging the gaps between art, ecology and community activism .
As viewers on Victoria’s Yates Street flee to the Legacy Art Gallery to escape the blistering summer heat, they may feel as if they’ve been locked in a shady forest, immersed in the sounds of the forest canopy, the atmosphere filled with the winds and the calls of the peaks. A panoramic impression of lush greenery and mossy bark surrounds the entrance to the gallery. The intense detail of the photographic print accentuates the textures so much that they appear three-dimensional.
The in situ works entitled Treescape Revolution were created by UVic Associate Professor of Visual Arts and artist Paul Walde, who uses sound compositions to connect with ecology. Walde created Treescape Revolution for the Eden Grove Artist in Residence program — founded in 2021 by Demers.
Courtesy of the Pachehaadt communities, on whose unceded territory Eden Grove stands, Demers has invited artists to live and work in cedar forests, steps from the old dams.
The pieces in the gallery reflect the connections the artists have made, both with the landscape and with those who struggle to protect it. In an email interview, Demers recalled, “Some of the artists spent many days and weeks in the forest and became intimately familiar with the ancient red cedars of the grove. Some also developed deep friendships with forest protectors at Eden Camp, a nearby blockade, and these relationships fueled the artwork that was produced, telling stories of community, struggle and resilience.
In August 2021, a selection of artwork produced by several resident artists was exhibited at Fortune Gallery as part of the exhibition Last Stand: Ancient Forests, Collective Action. The current display of the Legacy, Still awakeexpands on this previous iteration, inviting viewers to consider the impacts of ancient logging across Canada.
Demers mentioned the importance of working with First Nations people throughout the residency project.
“I created the residency program with the support of Pacheedaht Elder Bill Jones, Roxy Jones and future Hereditary Chief Victor Peter. They courageously spoke out against plans for logging on their territory, on which their community was not consulted, neither by the colonial government nor by the elected chief.
On the first wall of Still awake, a video made with Bill Jones highlights the importance of old growth forests to members of his community, including the power of old growth forests in establishing balance and balance. Along with the recording, viewers can learn the detailed history of the Eden Grove camp and the nonviolent protests in Fairy Creek, which resulted in over 1,000 arrests.
Unfortunately, Eden Grove is not an isolated example destructive forestry practices. With only 2.7 percent of old growth in British Columbia still intact, these issues deeply affect many communities. In the 2022 show at Legacy, four other artists have joined the eight of the Eden Grove project, pushing the discourse outwards.
Demers told the Martlet, “I have invited other artists to participate who have ties to ancient forests in their own territory, such as Gord Hill (Kwakwaka’wakw), Jordan Hill (T’Souke) and Carey Newman ( Kwakwaka’wakw and Sto:lo).
Newman’s video, The Last Totem, depicts the artist’s deep personal conflict with centuries of sculptural tradition and the ethic of sustainability. The accompanying Cedar Maquette, envisions its latest totem. The marked wood, freshly cut in preparation, echoes the artist’s unanswered question for the future, “What comes next?”
Of the work, Demers commented, “I’m particularly excited about the forward-looking vision of Carey’s ‘Totem 2.0’ Maquette. and his video The Last Totemwho envisions a new way to make totem poles without chopping down old cedars.
These artists draw on a plethora of new and traditional media techniques. One wall displays the striking portrait of Jeremy Herndl, black cedar, which captures, in thickly layered oils, the resolute and robust power of old growth. Around a Corner, Jordan Hill’s video installation, Horizontal vertigo, is projected onto thin, translucent layers of muslin. The rapid camera work that recorded the growth of the forest creates an urgent sense of fleeting movement.
As Demers acknowledged, despite the differences in approach, a common thread runs through the whole show.
“Throughout the work of the artists there is the awareness that we are all affected by the colonial and capitalist notion of nature as a commodity to be consumed rather than a source of life of which we are all a part and of which we depend for our survival,” Demers wrote. .
“All artists challenge these colonial paradigms in their work in different ways and offer a vision for [a] a future in which we have more reciprocal relationships with those ancient forests that have supported life for millennia – a future in which ancient forests remain standing.
Participating artists include Carey Newman, Connie Morey, Gord Hill, Heather Kai Smith, Jeremy Herndl, Jordan Hill, Kelly Richardson, Kyle Scheurmann, Mike Andrew McLean, Paul Walde, Rande Cook and Valerie Salez. Still Standing: The Future of Ancient Forests will be open until September 17, 2022.