Artist Statements

For those who like to delve deeper here are artist's statements for three of my recent shows: Look Up!, searise and confined...

Look Up!

The cell phone is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year. While (almost) no one will dispute its usefulness; there has been a marked behavioural change since the advent of cell phones and specifically the advent of smart phones with texting and games.

Our friendly Canadian ways are being lost as we all (myself included!) hunker down with our phones.  This is a dual-purpose exhibit. First to show the inward, insular behaviour. There is often other (out of focus) people in the shot which shows the missed interactions. The second half, follows with an observation of what one can actually see if one looks up (literally) and experiences life and our surroundings.

Three things inspired me. First, was a photo installation (seen in 2007; on the outside of a building on rue Charlot, Paris. There were large scale photos set in a grid of people looking up. I wondered how these photos were taken. Was the photographer in a building above and yelling to people passing on the street? Was he getting their attention in another way?

Second, I have for years enjoyed discovering interesting architectural features by looking up instead of rushing by or looking at street level.

Lastly, I have experienced the “looking down” smart phone behaviour of my family, friends, colleagues, and strangers. I have also observed how behaviour at the Halifax-Dartmouth ferry terminal and on the ferry has changed in the last three years.

There is related art history. In the late twentieth, early twenty-first centuries Martin Parr did an exhibition with people on cell phones all over the world.  His photos were compiled into The Phone Book: 1998-2002. As he said, "There is no escaping this modern phenomenon and my relationship is one of "I couldn't survive without it" but what a pain in the arse they are. I try to photograph my own and society's hypocrisy".

I rarely take photos of people. My recent experience has been architectural and of nature (animals and abstract landscapes). I have enjoyed expanding to another species and to observing human behaviour, while capturing provocative photos.


Neither the rise nor its cause can be doubted any longer. The only question is how high will the seas rise, and how fast.

Peter D. Ward, The Flooded Earth

Why is the sea rising?  What are the predictions for the amount of sea rise? Sea levels change for two reasons: a change in the tectonic plates and in the volume of ocean water. Changes in the former occur over very long timescales. The changes we are currently seeing mostly have to do with the volume of the ocean water increasing. This in turn can increase by two methods: by adding or heating the water. The most recent observed rise is due to thermal expansion. Concurrently, certain landmasses are subsiding; these areas are more prone to the sea rise. Nova Scotia is among those.

The amount of sea rise is difficult to predict and will change from region to region. In 2007, the accepted prediction by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was an 18 to 58 cm rise by century’s end, however, this does not include the important factor of ice sheet melting. In November 2012, a report stated that the UN IPCC forecast was actually off by 60%!

Currently we have approximately a 3-3.2 mm rise per year. This may not sound like a lot, but sea rise is a factor in devastation from storms such as Hurricane Sandy, as well as increased shoreline erosion. Surge height is affected by sea level, coastline geography, and a combination of strong waves during maximum high tides.

In visiting various parts of the Nova Scotia coastline I saw evidence of high seas. People told me of roads being flooded that were never flooded before; I saw staircases to the dunes as well as peninsulas covered with seaweed from surge events. I saw ramps to the dunes totally buried in sand. The Five Islands Lighthouse (Minas Basin, Bay of Fundy, NS) had been moved back from the shore three times since 1913 (1952, 1957, 1996) due to erosion and moving shorelines.

To the complaint, 'There are no people in these photographs,' I respond, There are always two people: the photographer and the viewer.”

Ansel Adams

All photographs were taken between January 19th and March 18th, 2013, along various Nova Scotia shorelines (Northumberland, Minas Basin, South and Eastern Shores) at approximately 12 sites visited numerous times.  My photos are abstract, bleeding into infinity, suggesting that both the shoreline and sea rise continue on.

The photographs are not made from an academic or scientific point of view.  At the same time, they are not landscapes à la Ansel Adams. The subject is abstracted, as viewers are asked to uncover some of the mystery. As Charlotte Cotton writes, while commenting on Manfred Willmann’s Das Land series, “…What seems to have driven this project…is the pictorial charge that can be found in a place, perhaps any place, if one looks.”

I chose to represent this project in a series of eleven water-based photos of five different shorelines. The photos have a lit sculptural wire in front of them. This wire represents the current shore and the shadow the historical shore. Lasty, the word in my title, searise, is a not a word, but a play on sunrise.

It is my hope that this exhibit will give us all pause; a moment of reflection upon our shores and the potential fate caused by rising seas.


The world is not black or white, locked or unlocked.

Zoos provoke both strong positive and negative reactions. They are teaching tools, they confine, they provide safe, enjoyable family outings, they place animals in cages, they educate both adults and children about animals and conservation*, they are unnatural environments, they inspire, they often ignore social and emotional needs*, they provide breeding programmes for endangered and at-risk species.

Animals** in this photo essay have never seen the wild. They were never free. They never knew anything other than the four square corners of their pen. They are loved and well cared for. They are predator-free and food-rich.

To me, ‘confined’ is not a negative or a positive state. It is a statement of being


* Mark Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals

* Mark Bekoff, The Emotional Lives of Animals

** No animals were harmed during the shooting of this photo essay