Plant Kingdom

6 May – 10 July, 2022

Frances Dorsey, Macro Plant Observations (detail), 2022. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Cecil Day, Frances Dorsey, David Gowman, Anna Heywood-Jones, Steve Higgins, Ursula Johnson and Lisa Myers, and Sharon Kallis

Plant Kingdom emerged as a means to reflect on the ways that life on our planet is dependent upon, enriched by, and indebted to plants. The elements of this exhibition, both in the Gallery and offsite, present and engage with the ways in which plants are integral to the cultivation and creation of material culture, and how this represents the larger value of plants to our planet.
The exhibition features the work of eight artists whose subject matter, materials, or conceptual framework investigates these intersections. Works in the Gallery include digital and physical images, installation, sculpture, textiles, performance, and hand-made musical instruments. A collaborative performance and a newly established garden bring us outside of the gallery space, during and beyond the exhibition duration.
Exploring the physical properties of plant matter, Cecil Day’s evocative series of intaglio and relief-print diptychs capture the linear and flat qualities of vegetative forms. David Gowman has made a series of woodwind instruments from found branches and tree limbs that can be played and are in specific keys. Anna Heywood-Jones uses marigold plants to dye the papers in an immersive wall assemblage, while Frances Dorsey has created a suite of jacquard-woven portraits of local plants, dyed with those plant materials.
The nature of plant biology and growth percolates through other works: Dorsey’s sculptural seed forms made from plant-based materials that suggest the seed as animate living beings, or Steve Higgins’ teeming installation of 100 huge and tiny constructed forms that evoke wood in both metaphorical and literal ways. Sharon Kallis considers ideas of connection and networking through a shared performative project deploying east coast/west coast nettles, weaving looms, and the internet.
In July, as the exhibition comes to a close, Ursula Johnson and Lisa Myers present a performance about longing for contact, using the existence of underground networks of mycelia as a metaphor. Their performance will consider ideas of connectivity that are explored within the Gallery, in the garden, and through other forms of plant life growing on the Dalhousie campus.
Incorporating living plants into the scope of a temporary exhibition has been a vital component of the planning of Plant Kingdom. Inspired by the butterfly gardens established across Canada by artist Mike MacDonald (1941-2006), a native plant and pollinator garden was inaugurated on the Dalhousie University campus in the Spring of 2021, in partnership with Cathy Martin, Dalhousie’s Director of Indigenous Community Engagement and Michele Graveline, Advisor for the Indigenous Student Centre. Mi’kmaw scholar and artist Michelle Sylliboy proposed the concept of Jiksituinen, which translates into English as “Listen to Us,” and the garden’s design is centred around this Mi’kmaw glyph. Plants with traditional medicinal and cultural significance will be integrated into the site and as it grows the garden will become a collective teaching and learning space - as well as a welcoming spot for everyone to rest, contemplate, and observe the plants and insects as they nurture each other.
Starting May 18, artist Sharon Kallis will be online and at her home loom in Vancouver, British Columbia. Join Sharon virtually from the gallery and weave along on the parallel loom set up in the exhibition. 
This is an opportunity to learn a few basics about the workings of the historical warp-weighted loom and work with a hand-spun nettle and linen warp and weft using fibres gathered from both coasts. The two cloths made from both coasts will be joined and sewn into a future garment for the artist's wardrobe.
Having led textile workshops online throughout the pandemic, this project continues to push the boundaries of what is possible in online skill sharing: bringing old tech to a new life through new tech.
No experience is required but an openness to a handskill adventure is a bonus!
Every* WEDNESDAY, FRIDAY, and SATURDAY from 1:00 - 2:00 PM (AST) in person at the gallery.* Except May 21, June 15, 17, 18 and July 1
Plant Kingdom is made possible by the generous support of Canada Council for the Arts and Halifax Regional Municipality.