The nature of the West Coast
Paintings, prints, carvings and sculpture mingle with essays and poetry on nature
Paintings, prints, carvings and sculpture mingle with essays and poetry on nature in Canada’s Raincoast at Risk.
Sherry Kirkvold, a naturalist who edited Canada’s Raincoast at Risk, introduces the book of art, poetry and prose with an impassioned essay that begins: “They call it a time before memory — a time so long ago that the voices of history no longer recount an unbroken story.”
The story ascends in myths, legends and artful renderings of the treasures of the Great Bear Rainforest. It’s a 7.4- million-hectare area of British Columbia that encompasses the North Coast, the Central Coast and the offshore archipelago of Haida Gwaii.
The 50 artists featured in the book created paintings, prints, carvings and sculptures to reflect their experience of the dramatic beauty and ecological diversity of B. C.’ s coast. Among them are Robert Bateman, Robert Davidson, Carol Evans, Mae Moore, Roy Henry Vickers and Alison Watt.
Six expeditions took place in July 2012 as the artists were transported to the Great Bear Rainforest by various tour boat operators and on the Raincoast Conservation Foundation’s research vessel, Achiever.
“These works speak on behalf of this place, of community, and they speak from the heart,” writes artist, educator and curator Beth Carruthers. “The wind- stirred feathers and steely eye of an eagle, the brilliant colours where sea meets shore, the secret worlds of sea stars and rockfish, the forever line of sight down a fiord.”
The book is a gorgeous work of art in itself with exquisite reproductions. The project undertaken with passion and persistence, miraculously, took only a year or perhaps eighteen months to complete if counting the first kitchen table conversation.
It was Mark Hobson’s vision to bring an invited group of artists together to challenge the threat of oil tankers on the northern coast of B. C. The artist and environmental advocate says “projects like this bring out the best in people.”
Brian Falconer, director of marine operations for Raincoast, said at the Nanaimo launch, the Great Bear Rainforest has been “the area of our passion for over 20 years.”
Nine chapters invite readers to experience through essays and magnificent works of art: The place, the people, land mammals, rainforests, marine mammals, marine birds, underwater, estuaries and salmon. Each of the essays, whether by a biologist, conservationist, or writer, educates, informs and delights. I was as awed by them as by the art.
Frances Hunter of Beacon Hill Communications Group designed the book and also had the vision to include poetry for each chapter. Victoria poet Yvonne Blomer’s As if a Raven introduces The Place. Other poets include Nanaimo’s Kim Goldberg and Clayoquot Sound’s Christine Lowther. Colour photographs accompany each poem and essay.
David Suzuki points out in the foreword that “Enbridge’s proposal to build a pipeline from the Alberta tarsands to Kitimat, B. C., where the diluted bitumen ( dilbit), would be loaded onto supertankers puts it all ( Queen Charlotte Basin) in jeopardy.”
“Human error, mechanical failure, unpredictable weather, and geological conditions all increase the risk of pipeline ruptures, and the loaded supertankers would face similar threats as they navigate the twisting, coastal channels en route to the Pacific Ocean and Asia.”
With an enthusiastic reverence, Briony Penn describes the book in her essay: “The researchers collect data, but as you can see through their collaboration with artists and poets, the greatest power is in the ability to connect us all, both mind and heart, to this incredible refugia at the edge of the world.”
Carol Evans is one of the artists who dropped all family commitments for six weeks to create a watercolour called Banks Island.
It’s always amazing to see the magic and skill in the recreation of water on paper or canvas and the details of flora and fauna along the shore, mist in the firs.
As she points out in her artist’s statement, “every single life form is entirely dependent upon the quality of the water.”
Jessie Housty, a member of the Heiltsuk First Nation in Bella Bella, writes in A Legacy of Culture and Stewardship: “Every pictograph and petroglyph, every stone fishtrap and trapline, every canoe blank and culturally modified tree is another inhale or exhale in the storytelling of the coast.”
Raincoast’s senior scientist, Dr. Paul C. Pacquet, in Lush, Living Tapestries, poetically describes all that is remarkable in the rainforest and notes the 1,500- year- old cedars and 90- metre- tall spruce.
Brian Falconer writes of the humpback whales who learn the same song every year, different from the previous year.
Caroline Fox, a biologist with Raincoast, writes about the birds, including the three species of albatross, with wingspans that stretch more than two metres. “It just takes one drop ( of oil) to kill a bird.”
The book ends with an afterword by Wade Davis.
Caroline Fox describes a nightmarish scenario in which “the coast lies at risk to the ultimate environmental degradations: Chronic and catastrophic oil spills.” Her first vision of the future is “an oilfree coast that stands forever as one of the last great refuges for wild species and ecosystems both above and below the water’s surface.” The more than 60 pieces of art, most of which are original paintings, carvings, sculptures and jewelry, were auctioned to raise funds. The Raincoast Conservation Society is making plans for the art show to travel to Calgary and hopes to raise the funds to take it to Toronto and Ottawa. There is an interactive ebook available as a free download on iTunes. Visit www.raincoast.org for more information. Mary Ann Moore is a Nanaimo poet and writer whose new collection of poems, Fishing for Mermaids, will be published by Leaf Press in 2014. www.maryannmoore.ca.