Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Land Use History Project Exhibition

Thought lines  2014
Heather Thoma
cotton twill, embroidery floss
each about 5 inches square

The images and text in this post refer to the Bonnie Blink Project in Land Use History carried out on Manitoulin Island under the leadership of 4elements living arts.  The project brought together twenty two 4th year geography students, 3 academic geographers, 7 artists, community members and local historians.

The project provided an opportunity for physical and human geographers to work together, realizing in the process that the full story was not learned and is a continually unfolding one.

The Bonnie Blink House, meaning "beautiful view", is a settler site in Sheguiandah, Manitoulin Island.  It was the site of Manitoulin Gardens until the mid 1980s and housed migrant workers, several families, and provided employment for large numbers of Islanders over the last 100 years. 
Heather's work explores the challenges and possibilities of working with both scientific and artistic approaches to research.  Throughout the Bonnie Blink project, she was struck by the shifts in perception needed to engage in comprehensive, relevant research and work between different approaches.

Her body of work for the exhibition encourages viewers to ask: can the elements of landscape help us to see how we see and how we move between ways of thinking. 
These leaf lines - the inward and outward shapes of leaf patterns, work as a metaphor for human thought and processes used in varying approaches to landscape research:  academic, artistic, community based, scientific and intuitive.
Oak Leaf Thought line (detail)  2014
Heather Thoma
238 cedar stakes, nylon rope
32 feet by 22 feet
Vile  2014
Ruta Tribinevicius
glass, silver wire, found objects
Part of her statement is below:

Less than 60 years ago, Manitoulin Gardens of Sheguiandah grew an array of vegetables and fruits, supplying much of the Island with its produce.  Today the trend to support grocery stores rather than local producers has left market gardeners struggling and dinner plates relying on imported foods.  The greenhouses, which formerly sat within view of my kitchen windows, are long gone, replaced now by meticulously cared for grounds.  

I draw parallels to how we interact with each other and the land.  This installation includes a chandelier, made from broken glass I've found around the property.  It's an item of beauty and opulence, and reflects the light around it, yet is made of garbage and discards.  It's my ode to the greenhouses, no longer, and the cultivated gardens, no longer, and a reminder of the communities that took root here long before these constructs, which will all inevitably fall apart.   Ruta Tribinevicius
These Old Chains  2014
Danielle Bourgault
knitted yarn, 3 inch chains, 14 feet long
first installed around the property boundary as a performance
Part of her statement is below

On October 6th 1862, William McDougal, the commissioner of Crown Lands, ordered an exploratory survey of Mnidoo Mnis/Manitoulin Island.  These surveys commenced based on the inaccurate premise that Anishnaabeg people were only using small parts of the land and that potential settler communities were welcome. 
I thought about the context of the first official survey, the desire to declare ownership and draw definitive lines, the social and environmental impacts, the future these drawn lines preceded.  Upon the surveyor's return in the spring of 1863, they were met with opposition from the Anishnaabeg peoples who declared the Treaties illegal and demanded the work cease.  The results of these surveys continue to foster complicated relationships and boundaries.  Danielle Bourgault
outcropping  2014
Michael Belmore
stone, copper leaf
25" x 15" x 9"

His statement below:

Outcropping consists of carved and fitted stones coming together to offer a feeling of warmth.  Copper is inlayed, giving the illusion of the shimmer and glow of a dying campfire.

My first carved stone sculpture was done in Dawson City back in 2003.  The work consisted of stones gathered downstream from placer mine tailing piles.  It is impossible to miss these piles driving into Dawson.  Placer mining is a technique by which gold is removed from gravel using water and gravity.  The dredging of the riverbeds creates barren wastelands.  It was this waste material that I wanted to reutilize into art, so I decided to carve and fit together a collection of stones into a square format. 
From that I started to look at mining from my home territory.  I looked at the treaties that were signed on the north shores of Lake Superior, such as the Robinson-Superior Treaty 1850, within which I found this excerpt:  "nor will they at any time hinder or prevent persons from exploring or searching for mineral or other valuable productions in any part of the territory hereby ceded to Her Majesty".  The copper is about the value that is inherent and often hidden in the land.   Michael Belmore

All text in this post is from the very informative catalog. Contact 4elements to purchase.
All photos are by Judy Martin with permission from the artists and the Centennial Museum of Sheguiandah.  I'm very glad that I was able to view the exhibit before it came down.  (July 3 - July 23 2014).

Congratulations to Sophie Edwards, the executive director of 4 elements.  She has been tireless in working hard to bring art and culture of all kinds to Manitoulin Island.  This project ....wow, Sophie!!


  1. I reviewed this exhibit because it was so refreshing to see conceptual art on Manitoulin and to be asked, as a viewer, to think about issues that are so often just brushed away.
    The art was engaging and interesting.

    I knew some of the people involved, but still was surprised by their work for this exhibit.


  2. i think i like those last pieces best, rocks with fire exposed, the centre of the earth, primordial creativity

  3. Nice to read some of the historical aspects ... am forwarding this to a friend and former Manitoulin born & bred. ! He loves art !
    You speak of many places that are near and dear to him.

  4. I wish I had seen the show - must order a catalogue! Sophie is my sister's grad student.

  5. Anonymous7:17 pm

    Judy thanks for your review. I enjoyed reading about this exhibition. Even though iam located 'downunder' so many of the themes of this show have/are also being explored in our neck of the woods. I went to a special day near Canberra some years back where selected artists had worked with a local farmer who was trialling new land management techniques such as cell grazing. The surveyors chain also featured in the work produced along with the historical perspective of indigenous land use.
    Thank you so much for your post.


Thank you for taking the time to connect. Much appreciated.xx