The forested landscapes of North America are shrouded in a narrative of exploitation and colonialism. During my time living in Haida Gwaii, a remote archipelago off the North Coast of BC, I was exposed to the environmental destruction of a pristine wilderness, driven by capitalist interests and a colonial culture of disconnection, and luxury. As a response, I wanted to establish an art style that minimized (or at least clearly brought attention to) the level of harm I inflicted upon the environment. So, I developed the Domesticated Wilderness project, beginning with the Moss Chair. I took an armchair from the landfill and relocated it to an exquisite and isolated (boat access only) forest, and then converted the chair into an organic substrate onto which I transplanted carpets of moss from the surrounding forest. During this process I collaterally caused harm to the ecosystem, but with a complete awareness of the breadth of the impact. I continue to monitor the health of the moss, making adjustments to ensure a symbiosis between the object and its matched natural surroundings. Bringing the domestic comfort of an armchair into the most pristine and mossy forest I could find, I combined the two extremes of the natural resource industry (virgin forest, with consumer product). By juxtaposing a symbol of modern colonial comfort with the wilderness, and creating a permanent, living installation, I am giving nature a chance to reclaim an object that represents its transgressors. This image is also meant to invite you to reconnect with the true source of our constructed lives, and remind you that in the end, we all return to the earth.
While living in Haida Gwaii, a pristine and naturally wild archipelago south of Alaska, I wanted to find a way to make my lifestyle and consumption habits unified with my philosophy of non-destructive peaceful coexistence. As a response to seeing the degradation of the landscape while working for a logging company, I was determined to develop an artistic methodology that I could use to express my struggle with identity, vanity, and femininity, while causing minimal negative effect on the environment. My solution was to construct this lichen wig. I collected the lichens that would fall from the tree tops after storms and land on the ground where they would not otherwise survive (since they are so sensitive to environmental factors); an ideal material for a low-impact art project. I sewed a wig cap from a shirt found in a dumpster, and used a needle and thread to attach each strand of lichen. I kept the wig outside in the rain, hoping that the lichens would stay alive so that the wig itself would be a functioning living organism. However lichens are much too fussy, so the wig died. Even in the face of failure, endeavouring to manipulate nature to serve one’s purposes is one of the defining characteristics of what makes us human. One critical aspect of modern life is the increasing disconnect between our consumer objects and their natural source. Objects whose primary purpose is vanity, luxury, comfort, convenience or indulgence all have an impact on the environment that most of us do not consider on a daily basis because we are conditioned to continue consuming. Wigs represent a manipulation of identity. Wearing this wig (and merkin) alters my identity from modern privileged woman, to a creature of the forest, while highlighting the complex relationship between the object’s material source, the creative process, and the final product.
At the northern most tip of Vancouver Island, at the end of the logging roads, is a remote hike-in access beach where the ocean relentlessly paints psychedelic patterns across the sand. Twice a day, as the tide recedes, the water arranges the sand grains, replicating its own chaotic textures of ripples and turbulence- then hours later, the tide washes it all away again. There is an endless variety of shapes and patterns, intrinsically linked to the direction of the winds, the time of year, and the day of the month. The tide is the artist, and I am the dedicated witness. Camping alone on the beach, amidst the wolves and cougars, I live by the tide and the sun. From the moment the tide drops far enough to create the first pattern, I am out with my large format film camera, adamantly performing a sweeping investigation of the ocean’s most recent sand art, and I don’t stop until the tide floods back over the sand, forcing me to retreat 6 hours later. The impermanence of these delicate granular formations is what makes them so compelling. Too much wind blows them away, too much rain pock-marks their sharpness, too many hikers covers them with footprints. It is a lesson in letting go, and relinquishing control. The transient fluid element of the tide is both creator and destroyer. When perceived within the right temporal framework, nothing is truly permanent.