Sky: Earth: Water Reliquary

The new works created for the Earth Reflections exhibition are based on sites on the North Shore – from Deep Cove in North Vancouver to Whytecliffe Park in West Vancouver. I wanted to provide viewers with basic information on how they could access the sites I’d visited. With this in mind I overlaid a map (left) of the North Shore with an infinity symbol. The infinity symbol signifies the constantly evolving universe, the cycles of life including nature’s cycle of birth, death and regeneration. This line intersected many parks and nature areas, I chose to work at 12 of them: Bridgeman, Cates, Deep Cove, Seymour, Lynn Headwaters, Capilano, Dundareve, Lighthouse, Eagleridge, Whytecliffe, Cypress and Mahon Parks.

Numerology, a metaphysical system based on the esoteric relationships between numbers and physical objects or living beings, often enters my work. After contemplating many different numbers I decided to work with the number 12. There are 12 months in a calendar year, in China a 12 cycle system called Earthly Branches is used for time reckoning. The day is divided into two 12 hour sections, ancient measurement systems are based on 12. Astrology is based on time being divided into 12 zodiac signs and in China 12 animals. The bible has many references to including the 12 tribes of Israel, 12 Apostles and 12 Angels. 

My early intention for the Earth Reflections exhibition had been to create a series of reliquaries based on each of the 12 sites. A reliquary, also known as a shrine, is a container for sacred relics. They have been used in some form by people throughout the ages. Hindus and Buddhists house reliquaries in their temples and people make pilgrimages to them. In parts of Africa reliquaries are used in rituals and can contain the bones of ancestors. They were especially popular in Medieval times and have been an important element of Christianity since the 4th Century. They can contain bones, special and/or magical objects and sometimes include the remains of holy people or holy sites.

I began with taking photographs at each of the sites thinking that the photos could somehow be incorporated into a reliquary along with natural materials collected at the sites. I had an idea that each reliquary would contain directions that would act as map of sorts to enable people to visit each of the sites – kind of a reverse pilgrimage. The viewer could begin at the reliquary, situated in a House of Art, but they would be able to access the original sacred site. It wouldn’t matter if the viewer went to the exact photo site – for truly all sites in nature are sacred – the journey and the awareness of our connections and inter-connectedness with everything around us was more the point.

As I began to see the everyday-secrets that the sites were revealing through the photographs I realized that they were already ‘the work’. The 12 original reliquaries eventually merged and became one digital reliquary consisting of three screens, representing Air, Earth and Water. Father Sky, Mother Earth and Water as the boundary between the otherworld and our world – water as the giver of life. The three screens are stacked one over the other. Sky at the top, Earth in the middle and Water on the bottom. I took over a thousand site photographs, this reliquary holds 12 sky photos, 144 site photographs (12 from each of the 12 sites) and 12 water photos. As I was working on this piece I was struck with the idea that perhaps one day all we might have left of a site are digital representations, digital reliquaries of natural sites.

Earth Reflections Exhibition, Cityscape Gallery, North Vancouver, BC 2008