Since the mid-1970s Marlene Creates’s work has been presented in over 350 exhibitions and screenings, and it is represented in numerous public collections. For this exhibition, curators Susan Gibson Garvey and Andrea Kunard brought together over 60 works from collections across the country, including from the National Gallery of Canada, and from the artist herself, providing a rare opportunity to explore the range of her practice, and to locate it within larger critical, cultural, and ecological contexts.
From her earliest ephemeral gestures in the land (when she first stepped away from the studio to work outside) to her latest immersion in the boreal forest that surrounds her home, Creates has chosen a path that privileges the act over the artifact, the moment over the monument. Central to her practice is her use of photography, not only as a documentary medium (recording, for example, her temporary landworks) but also as an arena in which ideas are performed, as a means of questioning what we see, and, through sequential images and grids, as a means of linking the viewer with cyclical natural processes. Creates’s impeccable photographic technique, her formal restraint and elegance, and her avoidance of the spectacular or indulgently picturesque, allows quiet, revelatory experiences to unfold.
The exhibition follows Creates’s journey from solo actions in the land to works that examine the intersections of nature and culture, as she introduces hand-drawn mapping and stories, video and poetry, into her practice. Always held in tension with the visual, the sounds and meanings of words enrich many of Creates’s projects. They are drawn from narratives of ancestral lands in her series titled The Distance Between Two Points is Measured in Memories, Labrador 1988, assembling stories and memory maps by displaced indigenous Labradorians; they are written across the Canadian landscape in public signage (wryly investigated in her mid-career series Signs of Our Time, 1992-2003); and they are discovered in local vernacular terms for naturally occurring phenomena (as in the multi-media works of A Newfoundland Treasury of Terms for Ice and Snow, 2011-14). The artist’s subtle poetic awareness finds its most recent expression in her videos and site-specific activities in The Boreal Poetry Garden.
Organized by the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in partnership with Dalhousie Art Gallery and with support of the Museums Assistance Program. The exhibition is curated by Susan Gibson Garvey and Andrea Kunard.