From the Vault: Human/Nature

3 May – 14 July, 2019

Heather MacLeod, Point Pleasant, Picnic Table on a Hill, Halifax, 2002. Dalhousie Art Gallery Permanent Collection

This year’s From the Vault exhibition augments the explorations of environment and sustainability presented in Nature as Communities, and features photography-based works from the Gallery’s permanent collection that probe various points of intersection between nature and our human natures.

By definition, landscape–the features of a region or area of land that are visible–implies the presence of a spectator, and establishes a relationship, however fleeting, between person and place. Through the photographic lenses of the artists in this exhibition, these transitory moments become documented landscapes that each tell a story: of dynamic biological ecologies; of integration and disintegration as people make and mark their existence; of the spectator who frames the view. David Morrish’s photogravure portraits of trees caught in the contested turf of urban sylviculture, and Sylvie Gilbert’s portraits of tree planters valiantly working in logged clearcuts to repopulate the next generation of timber remind us that the slant of the transgression depends on what side of the fence you’re on. Heather MacLeod’s vistas include a built feature, such as a picnic table or a stone wall, situating a human experience–spiritual, aesthetic, recreational–within an unpopulated landscape. In Susan McEachern’s trees and water series, text overlaid on photographs of foliage reveals evolving views on the “natural world”: from being “simply a refuge”, to becoming a locus of privilege and personal challenge; and finally as a catalyst for personal growth and self awareness.