Exploring My Own Landscape: A Bag At a Time

February 28, 2012 6:00 p.m. Beautiful yellow/orange arch to the west. -12 degrees, the sense that the weather is changing.  Sun set while out on our walk so that the photo images were subdued.

This is the location where I most often find myself running my border collie, Max.  It is a beautiful place…and daily, the weather creates a different environment through changing colour/season/ and light.  The discouraging thing is that it edges on a highschool football field, a sports center and highway 22X.  As a result, I noticed this past autumn, a huge collection of garbage, plastics and fast food containers in the pond and blowing through the brush and tall grasses.  It makes me so sad, observing this juxtaposition…gorgeous birds nesting at the pond’s edge…but, surrounded by manufactured items.

My Project

I made a decision that each time I visit the space, I will pick a bag full of garbage and deposit it in a bin.  This evening, the sun set and there was just a soft yellow glow on the western horizon when I rounded the far end of the pond.  A young man…maybe in his 20s…said, as he passed me, “Thanks for doing that for us.”  I felt really happy about his connection, however brief, and that he valued what I had decided to do.

Findings…at least 20 Tim Horton’s drink cups, with plastic lids, 14 plastic bags of various sizes, 15 pieces of industrial insulation of the foam variety (likely blown from the construction area, an extention of the sports center), a large sized plastic bucket from the same site, burned book pages, fast food containers and hamburger wraps, two bags of dog poop and a large purple plastic hoop.

#1 Collection

 I try to leave out the parts that people skip. Elmore Leonard

Where are you, Tanya Harnett? Connecting with photographs!

Cold Lake First Nations: Damaged Spring at Blueberry Point 2011, Collection of the artist, Tanya Harnett

Directly from the Glenbow Museum Exhibition Schedule…

Tanya Harnett is a photographer who uses her art form to explore notions of spirituality and materiality, technological modes of representation and hierarchy of media. Join Tanya as she discusses how her practice as a photographer engaged her in this curatorial process and how her own photography shaped her decision when selecting a Burtynsky photography for the exhibition.”

If you wander the internet, you will find all manner of project that Tanya Harnett has been involved with.  As guest curator for Encounters, she selected another Edward Burtynsky piece that is powerful for me, Nickle Tailings #30, Sudbury, Ontario.  Through my university-years 1973-1977, I used to travel back east by train, to visit my parents in Ontario.  I remember the view out my window, forehead against the glass window, as we journeyed early in the morning through the devastation of Sudbury’s landscape.  This was my place of birth.  This image spoke to my heart as I stood before it in the Glenbow Museum yesterday afternoon.  Thank you for selecting this particular piece, Tanya.

Nickel Tailings #30, Sudbury, Ontario Photographer: Edward Burtynsky

Where are you, Danny Michel? Connecting With a Photograph!

Oxford Tire Pile #2. Westley, California (1999). Photograph by Edward Burtynsky.

Of Edward Burtynsky’s photographs curated for the recent exhibit, Encounters, Danny Michel chose  Oxford Tire Pile #2 Westly, California.   It was a very frustrating thing, that the Glenbow did not provide, for purchase, a catologue of these works, along with the adjoining narrative.  The words shared by each guest curator were so fitting and in most cases, moving.  I had to plod along writing notes, as I always do, and spent a generous amount of time visiting with each photograph.  I’ve written about Burtynsky’s work before.  I went through a phase of needing to watch Manufactured Landscapes once a week…for a very long time…I never cease to be amazed by the beauty that this photographer captures in such ‘difficult’ subject matter! 

And what of Danny Michel?  One thing that he got me thinking about was, “Yeah….what would the Sumerians think about this photograph?  Inventors of the wheel…would they have ever imagined tires in such abundance, discarded in huge heaps?  Overwhelming imagery!