Coastal Camera Obscura III – On-The-Water Experience 2023

May 12 2023 / 10:00am - May 14 2023 / 5:00pm

Experience a floating camera obscura in the waters surrounding K`ómoks (Goose Spit and Comox).

Coastal Camera Obscura III, created by Donald Lawrence, is a locus for encouraging broad-ranging audiences to consider histories of the surrounding lands and of the interplay between art/science and learning/play while engaging in a micro-adventure.


10AM – 5PM Daily:
Friday, May 12
Saturday, May 13 — day will start with a 10AM welcoming event with Artist Don Lawrence + Elder Barb Whyte
Sunday, May 14

Launch site: Goose Spit inside beach – lagoon side – last parking area on right before military gate.

Watch for this signifier:


To participate:
DROP-IN anytime during listed hours.
CVAG staff and the artist’s assistants will orient visitors.
Artist Donald Lawrence will be onsite to talk about the project.
Comox Valley Kayaks will provide guided use of provided kayaks and water travel to the Coastal Camera Obscura lll.
Beachside make activities will be available.

Public / All Ages / Free — DONATIONS are welcome

Access: This event is a beach and on-the-water event. Some kayaks (single and double) will be available courtesy of the artist and Comox Valley Kayaks and Canoes.
Waivers must be signed prior to participation,- must be of legal age for signature – these will be available at the public participation launch site.
Individuals under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.


A large, luminous projection of the surrounding landscape will provide a contemplative space, with the image moving gently as the structure bobs on the water and shifting as the structure swings on its anchor or drifts with the current. In some respects, with its single, Cyclops-like lens/eye the structure presents an almost animal-like persona. Launched and sited in the waters at Goose Spit, Coastal Camera Obscura III will be a locus for activities encouraging broad-ranging audiences to consider histories of the surrounding lands and of the interplay between art and science, learning and play, while engaging in a micro-adventure at the same time. Coastal Camera Obscura III builds upon two earlier projects, realized in St. John’s in 2014 and in Vancouver in 2017. All three projects share the common structure of a fabric, tent-like enclosure suspended within a surrounding, floating wooden framework. The new structure for this project with the Comox Valley Art Gallery will have a lighter framework, made up of hexagonal wooden poles and metal fittings, buoyed-up by custom-made floats. Reflecting a long history of working with the ebb and flow of intertidal waters the structure will be assembled on the beach on a receding tide and will float as the tide rises around it. It is hoped that this version of the Coastal Camera Obscura will see future venues at locations on the inner coast of Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands, and in Atlantic Canada.


Donald Lawrence 

Having completed a BFA at the University of Victoria and an MFA at York University I teach in the Visual Arts program at Thompson Rivers University, in Kamloops, BC. Like many of my projects, this one with the Comox Valley Art Gallery draws upon my long-standing interest in sea kayaking and I am a member of the Sea Kayak Guides Alliance of British Columbia. My artistic works merge traditional and experimental practices around two broad areas of interest: the meeting place of urban and wilderness landscapes and culture, and; pre-photographic optical apparatuses, particularly the early projection device of the camera obscura. Through such projects, I explore interests in the ocean environment and the culture of recreational sea kayaking. Since the mid-2000s, have placed emphasis on projects that engage audiences in immersive, off-site projects. From 2013 to 2019 I was the lead researcher of the Camera Obscura Project (SSHRC Insight program) in which a group of artists, scholars and students realized the 2015 Midnight Sun Camera Obscura Festival in Dawson City Yukon, followed by exhibitions in public and university art galleries in Hamilton, Kamloops, Lethbridge and Whitehorse, and publication of Art, Research, Play: The Midnight Sun Camera Obscura Project (University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, 2021). With the assistance of student research assistants, I realized a permanent artwork, the Nanton Camera Obscura, in collaboration with the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery in 2019 and this may be visited at the Coutts Centre for Western Canadian Heritage, in Nanton, Alberta. A publication forthcoming from the Kamloops Art Gallery, Donald Lawrence: Casting the Eye Adrift, documents these recent projects in relation to my longer practice.


Charlayna Napoleon

Born in Kamloops BC, Charlayna Napoleon is a Queer Indigenous artist currently working towards their BFA at Thompson Rivers University, Kamloops. At TRU, they are the President of the Visual Arts Student Association(VASA) and coordinate weekly Life Drawing sessions with live models, open to students and Community members. Charlayna works for the Kamloops Art Gallery as an Art Instructor for weekly youth workshops where they teach participants a wide range of mediums such as drawing, painting, screen printing, relief printing, zines, buttons, and mixed media. As an independent artist they have also collaborated with fellow artists to host youth workshops on short films, stop-motion animation, and digital storytelling. In their art practice, Charlayna likes to focus on creating art that tells a story. Whether it be through drawing, painting, or animation, their main areas of focus at the moment. There is always a narrative aspect to their work. They also encourage process-based art when working with the community, allowing participants to gain a new experience and/or perspective. In the future, Charlayna hopes to have more opportunities to engage with communities in arts while also furthering their own art practice.

Ryland Fortie

Ryland Fortie is a sculptor and painter interrogating the interplay between the human-made and natural world. Ryland  is currently a MFA candidate at the University of Victoria and formerly, was a Thompson River’s University alumuni with Donald Lawrence. From 2013-2017, he was a research assistant with the Camera Obscura Project, and helped realize the 2017 version of the Coastal Camera Obscura in Vancouver. Fortie is Current MFA candidate at the University of Victoria.

Learn more about the ongoing Coastal Camera Obscura project: CLICK HERE
Or visit in-person at the Comox Valley Art Gallery to see the presentation in GATHER:PLACE.

Images, drawings, concept models + plans, and publications that describe the development and site-specific presentations of the three iterations of the Coastal Camera Obscura that have been developed to date.

This event is part of the convergent program:
in | at | on : RETURN TO WATER 2023


The artist acknowledges the ongoing support of Thompson Rivers University, as well as the support of Comox Valley Kayaks & Canoes and Dulux Paints Nanaimo.

Comox Valley Kayaks & Canoes