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View Gallery exhibit reflects on humanity’s responsibilities toward nature

Victoria artist Rande Cook presents ‘When a Tree Falls, Are We Listening?’

Victoria artist Rande Cook hopes his latest body of work moves viewers to reflect upon their relationship with the natural world and their responsibilities toward the planet.

From now until Nov. 27, Cook presents When a Tree Falls, Are We Listening? at the View Gallery at Vancouver Island University. It’s Cook’s second time showing his work in the gallery, as he was part of the exhibition Ebb and Flow in 2012 when the Nanaimo Art Gallery operated out of that space.

Cook said the exhibit is about the “deep philosophical connection to the land that we have as Kwakwaka’wakw people.” The exhibit is mostly sculptural, with pieces made from felled trees from Kwakwaka’wakw territory. Cook said he wants viewers to feel as though they are among trees.

“Historically that’s where we got all of our medicine, our connection, our stories. Everything came from the forest,” he said. “We can’t have a conversation without connecting into the forests in any way. You can’t talk about rivers and salmon without the forest … You can’t talk about animals. You can’t talk about human connection even. Everything goes back to that.”

View Gallery curator Chai Duncan first saw Cook’s work at a gallery in Victoria. He said he was impressed by Cook’s “expert handling of traditional Kwakwaka’wakw form lines and the way he has given these traditional forms a very contemporary feeling.”

“He is totally committed to his art practice and framing it as rooted in the land and in his people,” Duncan said in an e-mail. “This commitment is powerfully moving when we see the rapid loss of this cultural and material resource, western red cedar, due to industrial scale logging practices currently happening on the B.C. coast. Rande links the health of the land to health of his culture. As one suffers, so too does the other.”

Cook said Kwakwaka’wakw stories have helped guide environmental practices in the past and they can have a role in contemporary decision making as well. But Cook said it’s a global issue that requires a unified response.

“We have a beautiful philosophy that has set the tone for what our relationship can be and helping to educate us on how we can develop and maintain those relationships with the natural environment,” he said. “And I believe now is the time we can share those stories. Share them with the people of the world.”

WHAT’S ON … When a Tree Falls, Are We Listening? by Rande Cook is on display at the View Gallery, VIU Bldg. 330, from now until Nov. 27

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Victoria artist Rande Cook with his piece ‘Mother Tree,’ one of the works of art in his View Gallery exhibition, ‘When a Tree Falls, Are We Listening?’ (Josef Jacobson/News Bulletin)