As artist in residence at the Canadian Canoe Museum for the past year and a half I am often asked what initially inspired me to cover a 16 foot cedar strip canoe (a gift from canoe museum curator Jeremy Ward) in a mirrored mosaic map of some of the waterways of central Ontario, Canada where I live.
It is the experience of paddling on still and quiet nights, the sky clear and the moon yet to rise that moved me to create this work. The mirror like surface of the water reflects the stars and I am given the sensation of moving myself through them. As the moon rises the small ripples from my paddle and canoe cutting through the water send the reflected light dancing across its surface. It is in these moments that I feel myself in intimate conversation with my environment. Not simply a creature living in this world but a part of its very nature; the earth, air, water and light living around me, within me and through me. In this project I attempt to make visible the silent language of this conversation.
From this initial inspiration, through the long process of its creation, this work has evolved and triggered connections beyond my private experience. The canoe’s exterior maps the waterways from my home in Apsley, Ontario, southward into the Trent Severn Waterway and on into Rice Lake. The changing cut patterns of the mirror reflect the changing landscape from the granite shield north of Stoney Lake to the limestone plane south of this waterline. The canoe’s interior is mirrored in a much simpler fashion. Placing mirror sections between the ribs, I mimic the planking of this old cedar strip canoe. The effect, when paddling is of floating in the skeleton of the small vessel, sky and water joined.
The canoe’s significance then broadened beyond the place mapped on its surface and traveled to Europe where connections continued to unfold. This year Belgium and the Netherlands are celebrating their close historical and geographical ties with a program called ‘Beste Buren’ or ‘Good Neighbors’, which supports a large number of collaborative artistic and cultural projects. In 2009 I had the good fortune to work with Jeroen Maes, the Creative Director of the GlazenHuis in Lommel, Belgium, putting together an exhibition titled Tenuous Tenacity: Contemporary Canadian Glass. It now seemed a good time to work together again on a new project. The Dutch National Glass Museum in Leerdam, Netherlands, and the GlazenHuis had already begun to plan a collaborative project and the mirrored canoe was a perfect fit to strengthen these connections.
These two glass centres are 100 kilometers apart, as the crow flies, and, as it turns out, about 150 kilometers apart via water. There are ‘water roads’ throughout Europe connecting the interior of many countries using natural waterways and manmade canals via, locks and tunnels. And so, the idea of paddling the mirrored canoe from one glass centre to the other became a part of this project.
This journey connects back to the Canadian waterways mapped on the canoe’s exterior. The Peterborough Lift Lock, opened in 1904, is part of the Trent Severn Waterway in Ontario and is still the world’s highest hydraulic lifting lock. The designer of the Peterborough Lift Lock, Richard Birdsall Rogers looked to a series of lifting locks in England, France and Belgium when designing the Peterborough Lift. Those most closely related to Rogers’ design are in central Belgium and are now designated a UNESCO world heritage site.
On September 7, 2015, my trip between these glass centres began.
Keeping a written journal and a video diary, I recorded my thoughts and experiences throughout this journey. I also documented my experiences by posting daily images and comments via my Instagram. The images collected from my video diary were then used by Belgian producer, Ivan Haentjens, along with footage he had taken of the departure and arrival and a post trip interview conducted with Jeroen Maes to create a documentary of this project. https://vimeo.com/146507415
This documentary is currently being shown as part of my exhibition entitled ‘confluence’ which runs until March 6, 2016 at the Nationaal Glasmuseum Leerdam. The mirrored canoe used on my journey is also on display as part of this exhibition and now has a map of the route from Lommel to Leerdam, and the text from my trip journal etched into its mirrored interior.
While completing this project I have also had the opportunity to work in the hot shop of the GlazenHuis in Lommel, and the Glasblazerij of the Glasmuseum in Leerdam on the creation of a twelve-foot canoe made of hot glass.
Using a fiberglass canoe covered in fiber paper and plaster as a mould I pulled lengths of flat glass cane to form the “ribs” of the finished glass canoe. Half of the elements for this work were made in Lommel and half in Leerdam. The cold working and construction of the final form, using artificial sinew to tie the elements together was done in the Netherlands.
Titled ‘way-marking’, this work reveals the shimmering remains of a canoe that no longer floats. Presented in one of the museum’s glass houses, it rests upon a bed of mirror barely seen through the covering of fallen leaves.
In June of 2016 the mirrored canoe will be presented as part of my solo exhibition at the Art Gallery of Peterborough. I will continue to post progress images, video clips and comments of the developing work via my Instagram in the lead up to the exhibition.
Reflections: the mirrored canoe project and all the associated work has been generously supported by the Canada Council for the Arts, the GlazenHuis, the Dutch National Glass Museum, and the Canadian Canoe Museum. Many heart felt thanks.