I have a complicated relationship with the place of my birth. I vacillate between polarized and seemingly incompatible points of view — trying to reconcile the deep emotional attachment to this place with a creeping sense of trespassing. I was hoping to explore this at a creative residency at the Emma Lake Kenderdine Campus. A fitting context, the school was founded in the same English imperial enterprise that informs most present-day institutions in this province. The campus was envisioned as a prairie oasis created to nourish pursuits more noble than the mundane affairs of labour and sustenance of self. The school flourished and sketching trips and painting en plein air gave way to a modernist art movement that is so closely associated with historical art production in the province. The campus has since returned to less intellectually rigourous (and perhaps pretentious) artistic concerns, primarily consisting of amateur painters and nature enthusiasts.
The surrounding lakeside area is a site of intensive development — a mish-mash of tiny summer cabins in various states of disrepair and large, featureless vinyl-clad dwellings transplanted from subdevelopments in the south. In this recreational netherworld, building bylaws and standards of decorum deviate wildly and folks seem to embrace a small town congeniality. The stores sell bait and booze and pre-foiled baked potatoes and I am the only person the cashier doesn’t know by name.
Beyond the improvised network of dirt roads lies the vast boreal forest of the Canadian Shield; a forest with a rich visual legacy in the history of Saskatchewan and Canadian art. I am interested in playing with familiar depictions of the forested landscape to destabilize the patriotic, heroic landscapes of the Group of Seven and the serene, beautiful imagery also typical of the genre to consider a more nuanced and complex relationship with the land. The week long residency yeilded some interesting results that I will be further developing in the coming weeks and months.