Finn Slough

Finn Slough is a bio-diverse area that shelters eagles, herons, ducks, muskrats, raccoons, frogs and also the people who have chosen to live in the tidal wetlands, living in harmony with, and by their presence, protecting one of the last tidal villages on the West Coast. I have tried to find a balance in how I would normally work at a site – in virtual seclusion with not many, if any, other people around (unless I’m teaching a workshop on environmental art where we work in a small group) and the Slough being a community. I have tried to be aware of issues of privacy, being sensitive to bringing an awareness to viewers of the site and how it’s connected to a much larger whole. I hope through this new work to bring the viewer an awareness of not only Finn Slough, but also the larger world and their connection to it, while sparking a chord of magic, of wonder, of awe. I believe that when we can remember how it felt to be a child, when we can tap into our earliest memories of discovery, when we can remember that we are not separate and apart from all other things in this world and universe, then, and only then, can we begin to create much needed and long-lasting changes in the environment. Once we can honour a site, a village, a country, a world, how can we not protect it?

Mathematics has always been a factor in my work, from Fibonacci spirals to golden rectangles and spirals to the significance of individual numbers. The Finn Slough Project is based on circles and the numbers 33, 66 and 99. There are 33 cellular images, 66 viewing circles that contain cells and natural materials and 99 glass balls at the site. The number 33 is a master number and symbolizes truth; 66 represents the cosmic mind and 99 illumination and universal awareness.

Cellprints: I did not know what to expect when I began working in the Biology Lab at Langara College. I’d seen cellular images but they had been taken by experienced biologists. I am not a scientist nor a trained biologist. I was in awe when I began to see the images emerging from within each of the slides I prepared. I took over 600 photographs during 25 hours of lab time — from these images 33 are presented as part of this exhibition. I did not use stains when preparing the slides, I wanted to preserve the actual colour and depth of the cells I was looking at. Most of the images were taken at 100x and then zoomed into further with a digital camera. These 33 prints are not intended to be seen as scientific slides – although each image provides a glimpse into the world of cells. It was amazing to me that cellular images often resonated and repeated the structure found in the original parent sample.

Anthropologist Jeremy Narby writes in the Cosmic Serpent that cells communicate with each other. When I read this I wondered if this communication on a cellular level is what I was feeling when I was in the lab, completely in awe, often with tears in my eyes, feeling something visceral that I couldn’t quite put into words…were my cells in communication with the cells I was observing? I like to think so. In Mind Over Genes: The New Biology, Dr. Bruce Lipton writes that our physical bodies are composed of fifty trillion single cells. Dr. Masaru Emoto, author of Hidden Messages in Water, has proven that our thoughts and words can affect the shape and size of water crystals. If our thoughts can change the crystals in water, and we contain trillions of cells, how are our thoughts affecting everything around us — water, cells, air, the physical world?

Cellstars: Astrophotographer, Chuck Webb of the Fraser Valley Astronomical Society, gave me permission to use his photographs for the Finn Slough Project. Cellstars, the video projection, utilizes cellular and astro images that breathe in and out of each other. The cellular images are from plants and humans and the star galaxies from thousands of light years away – at times it’s hard to know which you are looking at.

Viewing Stations: I wanted to share with viewers the natural materials that the cellular images originate from – some of them obviously reference their parent but others have a more subtle connection. The 66 viewing stations are presented in a manner that is easy to access, in a double line each 360″ long and includes magnifying glasses for viewers to take a closer look.

Starfloats: the site work at Finn Slough, consists of 99 small replicas of Japanese glass float balls and not only connects the site to the stars, moon and the gallery but also honours the site’s history as a fishing village. The interior of each glass ball is coated with phosphorescent paint, made of non-toxic, rare earth pigments. There are 99 Starfloats suspended in the trees at the point, above the “No Wake” sign at the entrance to Finn Slough. The sun/light will charge them and they will softly glow for 2 – 2.5 hours in the dusk/dark before fading away. The glass balls reference some of the cellular images, like the lichen and elderberry, as well as the moon and stars.

Research Links

Special thanks to Langara College’s Biology Department, Langara Research Grant Committee, Surjeet Sidhu, Michelle Sylliboy, Sarah Phillips, Doug Phillips, Anne Koivukangas, Michelle McLean and Chuck Webb, Fraser Valley Astronomical Society

Georgia Straight article

Finn Slough Project, Richmond Art Gallery, Richmond, BC, 2007