Movement by Water Series – Moving Gallery Project

Movement by Water Series

Moving Gallery Project – Sioux Narrows – Nestor Falls – Canada 150 – 2017

Here it is, December 2017, and I am just now returning to this. So much has happened this past year. I found out, despite all odds against me, that I was pregnant. We welcomed our son into the world in late July. I also graduated from university again, after 7 long years of accounting and finance studies; writing my final exam while 9 months pregnant on a very hot, July summer day. Finally, I was also invited to exhibit my photography and writing (this blog) in a gallery exhibit.

The previous paragraph may seem a little boastful (well, yes, I am proud of my accomplishments), but the purpose of sharing that information is an attempt to justify my absence from blogging. There is no doubt that my blog has suffered this past year. Due, I believe, to the multitude of events bestowed upon me in 2017. Though I can’t say that my attention to it will improve in the relative near future, having an infant and returning to work soon, but I will say that I do intend to, or will attempt to rather, get back on track. After a fashion, anyway.

In any case, the following is my long overdue Movement by Water Series post…..

The History

The art and practice of photography is something that I have developed a keen interest in over many years. While I began shooting with film, I soon transitioned to the world of digital photography, at, you guessed it, in the early 2000s, when the tidal wave of digital cameras started to wash away, apart from many purists who still use them today, film cameras. Despite the changeover, I do recall, very fondly, the anticipation and excitement at seeing the result of a developed roll of film; waiting for the mail to arrive sometimes weeks or longer after shooting. A mixture of delight and disappointment would ensue at first sight of each developed-in-a-far-away-lab photograph.

Digital photography is much the same, but without the wait. Almost immediately after shooting, one can upload the photos to a large, high-resolution computer screen and see the results; with the same mixture of delight and disappointment. However, digital editing software can often soften the blow of disappointment and improve the quality of a photograph beyond [reasonable?] measure. This, and good, affordable equipment, of course, has opened up the world of photography to almost anyone who wishes to try their hand at it. It’s this approachability that leaves the purists, those with years of knowledge, legwork and trial-and-error through film [many who still and only shoot with film], with bad tastes in their mouths. “Anyone can call themselves a photographer these days.” However, it is this very accessibility that I feel gives opportunities to anyone, not just those who can afford expensive cameras and powerful lenses; as well as challenges and inspires the art form itself to evolve at a lightning fast pace. Progress.

Despite what many think, it isn’t a camera that takes a good photograph; one can take a good photo with a cell phone. It takes perspective and, sometimes, luck, to be in the right place at the right time. Anyone, indeed, can be a photographer.

While I don’t profess to be a good photographer, I have a love [verging upon obsession] for taking photos. And, I have worked my way up to a good camera. But, I don’t shoot for a living. I am not practiced with Photoshop. I can barely navigate my way through the complexity of that piece of software and haven’t the patience to learn it. Now and again, I dabble with Lightroom, but mainly use it for fine-tuning low light shots.

No matter the length of my experience and my knowledge of aperture, ISO and shutter speeds, I still consider myself a hobbyist at best. Though I am proud to share the fruit of my labour, mostly on Instagram these days, I don’t share everything that I shoot. Sometimes out of protectionism and [mostly perhaps] insecurity.

When I received an invitation to participate as an artist for the Sioux Narrows – Nestor Falls Moving Gallery, my first feeling was surprise, then anxiety [okay, sheer fright]. Am I ready to take on the task of commissioned work? And, showcase it…….right out there, in public, where everyone and anyone can see it [and critique it]? Then I thought, I may never get an invitation to do so again. So, go out on a limb, stick yourself out there. What’s the worst that can happen?

And, second, what is a Moving Gallery anyway?

The Moving Gallery

Well, it is just that. It is a tiny studio on wheels, that, obviously, moves. It toured Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba in the summer of 2017, filled with original works of literary, audio, visual and interactive art in celebration of Canada’s 150th Anniversary.

The Sioux Narrows – Nestor Falls Moving Gallery is the brainchild of Denise Lysak, the Township of Sioux Narrows – Nestor Falls’ Cultural Coordinator, who secured funding for it from Canadian Heritage, the Township of Sioux Narrows – Nestor Falls and Copperfin Credit Union, as well as the support of Boreal Architecture Studio and the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Architecture.

Each contributing artist (professionals, with their own studios… well as a Juno Award Winner…..a Governor General’s Award Winner…..a Genie Award Winner…..Gemini Award Nominated…..uh, did I mention my feelings of insecurity…..inadequacy?), from across Canada, developed their body of work in celebration of our nation through a common theme; water.

This project, happening on the shores of the very lake that I call home, about a subject I am most passionate, water [the lake], working with a team I couldn’t resist [and would be foolish to voluntarily pass up meeting and] learning from? I [think I] can do this!

Agreeing was the easy part. Then the real work began…..thinking about what and how I want to represent ‘water’. What does it mean to me and how can I showcase it in a meaningful and interesting way through my medium; blogging and still photography?

The Subject ~ Water

I thought about water and it’s greater meaning, to civilization, to Canada and to Sioux Narrows – Nestor Falls.

Water is life. No greater force has influenced and shaped humankind. Early man, as nomadic creatures, followed their food and fresh water sources for sustainability, then finally settled and built their communities around agriculture and the fresh water sources necessary for such. Water provided life, food, transportation and opportunities for trade, and continues to do so today. However, as our global population grows, the availability and quality of our fresh water resources will continue to diminish. How we respond to this challenge will define mankind, us, in the future.

In Canada, water is highly visible in her vast rivers, streams, wetlands, lakes, ice-capped mountains, arctic ice-fields, and we are surrounded by oceans from coast to coast to coast. We also have much fresh water and little for population. Our settlements are mostly centered around these oceans and fresh-watersheds. Our lives and livelihoods have been built around water. It has, like humankind, shaped our Canadian civilization and culture.

Sioux Narrows – Nestor Falls is wholly reflective of this. Located in the Lake of the Woods watershed, in the heart of the rich, boreal forest, we are surrounded by water. Lake of the Woods is a large inland freshwater lake, surrounded by many smaller lakes, rivers, streams and wetlands. The local industry is mainly tourist, water and recreation based. I was born, raised and live here. It’s my home.

What does water mean to me? Water is precious. Water is ever moving. Water is ever shaping. Water supports life. Water is life. Live the lake life is our community’s slogan. We live on the lake, drink the water from the lake, eat the fish from the lake, work on the lake, play on the lake, travel by the lake.

That’s when the concept of movement struck me. Moving gallery, movement by way of water and…..moving pictures!

The Process

It was a huge challenge for me to transition my thinking from producing straight still photography to moving mechanical animation. And, how would I assemble the subject to a gallery friendly medium?

Google! I found an amazing little company in California that makes FlipBookIt boxes. I immediately ordered five! I wasn’t sure how many would make up my display, but wanted an extra one or two for practice.

The kits come with stock animation, one set of flip cards; a race horse galloping. I put that together first. It takes twenty four still images to make the mechanical animation box work. Okay. Now, what images would I use to represent my movement by water story? And, what would translate to this format. Not just anything will work in an animation box.

Stop-motion photography. The animation subject should look good looping back to the beginning. The movement cannot be subtle. And, the primary movement shouldn’t be in the middle of the frame, as the pictures are split there on the cards, so the movement wouldn’t be visible. So, dramatic movement, filling up as much of the frame as possible, and the activity should take place in the top or bottom of the frame, not the middle. Got it [?].

It hit me one day; [very soon before opening day] capture images that depict how we, local, lake people, move by water. How do we do that here? Mostly by floatplane, motorboat and canoeing. I can capture stop-motion images of these activities in the format required, a week or two before the big reveal, right? Right!

What better way to integrate my water story into a moving gallery, on wheels, that is driven about, moved by transportation, and themed by water, than moving pictures about water transportation? Anyway, it all made [makes] perfect sense to me!

The Exhibit

The following photos and videos show the journey from the conceptual phase to the grand opening of the gallery (a few of the photos near the end of this section are from Chrissy Sie-Merritt and the Township’s Facebook page; used with permission).

The design and creative consultation phase; pre-build.

Conceptual design drawing.

The Flipbookit; pre-assembly and practice.

Two down. One to go.

Whew. Complete!

Set up day fun.

Just installed on opening day. I was taking a break (again).

Opening day. From left: Elyse Hartman, Ian Ross, Denise Lysak, Wanda Easton (Kabel), Chrissy Sie-Merritt and Nicola Cavendish. Missing: Gerald Laroche and Kate-Lynn Paypompee.

Grand Opening Ceremony.

My installation!

In use by visitors to the gallery.

Some of my fellow artists’ works, including the audio and video station.

Gallery’s interactive quote wall for visitors to leave a message about water.

Gallery’s interactive sensory activity – water table.

Gallery’s selfie wall, complete with photo props.

Another view of the interior of the gallery and fellow artists’ works.

Movement by Water – Volo – Fly.

Movement by Water – Remigi – Row.

Movement by Water – Navis – Boat.

The Gallery.

The Outcome

With one part luck and two parts pleading [begging] friends and family, I managed [just under the wire] to take all the shots I needed; a Northwest Flying floatplane taking off from Yellowbird Lodge, a motor boat traveling under the Sioux Narrows Bridge and canoeists paddling on Black Lake. The imagery did translate well to mechanical animation, in my opinion. And, I heard positive feedback from visitors to the exhibit.

I still have some anxiety over the quality of the pictures, as they are printed on stickers, and not super sharp, vibrant images that I prefer. The photos seem a little muted, but when I think about it, they seem to fit better that way with the mechanical animation method I chose, as there is something reminiscent of bygone times and antique-y about the Flipbookit boxes. In fact, if the photos were black and white, they probably would have looked even better in the black mechanical boxes.

Whatever the case, it was an experience for which I am most thankful; for the opportunity to exhibit, to be part of a creative process, to meet wonderful artists and designers, to learn, to reflect upon the meaning of water, and now have a desire to, perhaps, show again someday.

The Thank Yous

Denise Lysak, foremost for thinking of me for this project, also for being a good friend, not to mention creator and contributor; and for lining up Mary Anne and Audrey to paddle for me.

My husband, Larry Easton, for always supporting me and my photographic pursuits, whims and fancies, whether it be middle of the night star shoots or making several passes by boat under the Sioux Narrows Bridge.

My fellow creators, to whom I am most humbly acquainted through Denise and this project; Chrissy Sie-Merritt, Ian Ross, Nicola Cavendish, Gerald Laroche and Kate-Lynn Paypompee.

The architecture, design and construction crew: Boreal Architecture Studio, Erik Arnason, Shawn Bailey, Shawn Sinclair, Eduardo Aquino, Mike Salvador, Fred Borg and Chrissy Sie-Merritt.

Mary Anne Mooring and Audrey Manzie for paddling the canoe. Stephanie Brown for letting me capture the floatplane taking off from Yellowbird Lodge. My husband, Larry Easton, for taking me boating under the bridge.

The gallery guide; Elyse Hartman.

The Government of Canada (Canadian Heritage, Canada 150), Township of Sioux Narrows- Nestor Falls and Copperfin Credit Union for making the gallery possible.

Flipbookit for making great mechanical animation kits; without which, I am not sure I would have been able to bring my project to life.

The site management crew at the Northern Ontario Sportfishing Centre; Doreen Holland and staff.

As well as the volunteers who assisted with moving the gallery to and fro.

Last, but not least, everyone who took the time to visit and enjoy the Moving Gallery.

2 thoughts on “Movement by Water Series – Moving Gallery Project

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