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OPENING | Family Lines in Landscape
May 6, 2017 @ 2:00 pm - 4:00 pm
It has often occurred to me to wonder about the things I don’t know about my parents’ early lives and our family history. However, I never made any persistent efforts to find the answers.
Recently I read David Macfarlane’s 1991 book The Danger Tree: Memory, War and the Search for a Family’s Past. In it, Macfarlane wrote: “When I question my mother about her father’s family she usually tells me that when she was young she didn’t think to ask the older people about their lives. She had her life and they had theirs. By the time she was curious, they were gone.” My parents and most of the other people of their generation that they were connected to are also gone. I realized that I could no longer simply ask someone who had been there, and that led to a feeling that it was important that I find some answers while I still could. I began an enquiry of my own, into the layers of family memory and into my emotional responses to the dimly remembered stories from my personal past. In looking for symbols and archetypes, I found inspiration for a series of paintings that are a mixture of inner and outer landscapes.
The lines in landscape in this exhibition are journeys: not a cartographer’s lines superimposed on a satellite photo of the earth but rather the physical and emotional lines of human migrations etched into landscapes. The landscapes depicted in these paintings are made of the familiar trees and mountains and seas and snows of the north coast of British Columbia where I grew up. They arose out of an archive of family photos that is really my only source of information about my parents’ early lives. They also arose out of photos in books about the cataclysmic events of World War II, which shaped my parents’ lives in ways at which I can only guess, and other sources that are in the public record (the National Archives of Canada, for example).
My parents and their brothers and sisters and most of their cousins are gone now. All I can do is reconstruct and reimagine; I hope the viewers of this exhibition will reconstruct and reimagine with me.