‘Sustenance’ and ‘Moths Dancing Around the Moon’ by Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun, ‘Wihkasin (Delicious)’ and ‘Ennbrosh a payncheur (Paintbrush)’ by Carly Nabess and ‘Fern Dance’ and ‘Fluid Space’ by Mary Anne Molcan (cropped, clockwise from bottom left) are among the pieces on display in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s first curated online exhibition. (Photos courtesy the artists)

‘Sustenance’ and ‘Moths Dancing Around the Moon’ by Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun, ‘Wihkasin (Delicious)’ and ‘Ennbrosh a payncheur (Paintbrush)’ by Carly Nabess and ‘Fern Dance’ and ‘Fluid Space’ by Mary Anne Molcan (cropped, clockwise from bottom left) are among the pieces on display in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s first curated online exhibition. (Photos courtesy the artists)

Artists’ connections with the land explored at Nanaimo Arts Council exhibition

Online ‘Rooted’ show features digital art, prints and multimedia work

Three artists whose work contemplates ideas around land will be in the spotlight in the Nanaimo Arts Council’s first curated online show.

On May 20 the NAC’s latest exhibition, Rooted: Connections to Land in the Work of Mary Anne Molcan, Carly Nabess, and Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun, opens with an online reception and artist talk. The show continues on the NAC website until Aug. 5.

Curator Madalen Claire Benson approached White-Hill and Molcan after seeing their work on display at White Rabbit Coffee Co. and a Nanaimo Art Gallery print sale, respectively. Benson already knew Nabess, who lives in Terrace, from her work with the Skeena Salmon Arts Festival in northern B.C.

“I really care for all these three artists’ work,” Benson said. “I think their work is very powerful and the idea of bringing them all together happened pretty organically.”

As a curator, Benson said it’s important for her not to project her own ideals onto an artist’s work or fit their work into a rigid theme, but through conversations with the artists and researching their practices she found a common theme emerge.

“A seamless connection came across all of their practices deeply rooting their work in different conceptions of land,” she said. “So their work is very diverse from one another, but still linked to the significance of land and the value systems that we ascribe to it.”

Molcan’s work is part of a linocut print series inspired by her visits to the Cluxewe River estuary near Port McNeill.

“They’re not representations of what’s visibly available to her, they’re more innovative in their use of line and colour to signify the ecological significance of the estuary,” Benson explained.

Nabess is exhibiting a series of multimedia landscapes made with paint, ink and beads, which Benson describes as “a project of her connecting her Métis identity to land as a reflection or maybe an overturning, so to speak, of the forced removal of Métis peoples from their territory.”

Benson said White-Hill’s digital art shows the importance of land and territory through the beings that dwell upon it and their significance to Coast Salish world views and stories, “while also telling new stories of survival and beauty and strength.”

She said the artists each represent different “value systems” and meanings of land in their work, and by bringing them together and reflecting on their art, Benson started thinking about how land is “less of an object and more something that demands our care.”

“I hope that if there’s one takeaway from the show for the visitors that it’s that we can do more and need to do more to ensure that we restore some of the destruction that we’ve caused.” she said.

WHAT’S ON … Rooted: Connections to Land in the Work of Mary Anne Molcan, Carly Nabess, and Eliot White-Hill, Kwulasultun opening reception takes place on the NAC YouTube channel on May 20 at 6:30 p.m. Exhibition on display on the NAC website until Aug. 5.

RELATED: Nanaimo Arts Council presents its first online gallery show


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