as the wind blew: the ground beneath me, at the water’s edge, in its path
Through the lens of artist Sarah Crawley
The images by artist Sarah Crawley presented in the Main Gallery at CVAG comprise three bodies of work that explore grief, loss, and healing.
As a photo-based artist I work with ideas generated from lived experience using different photographic technologies and materials. I approach photography as a fluid medium, mingling analog and digital processes, and often subvert proper photographic techniques, as I investigate issues around identity. My approach invites unintended consequences through material use and process as I purposely give up control, embracing and encouraging the accidental during both capture and processing.
In my practice I often create a structure or methodology in which to explore an idea, creating a set of rules that I either follow or break. This process frequently involves ritualistic behavior and functions within an understanding of ritual as mental and physical strategies that create access to knowledge, and emphasize the relationship between doing and meaning.
From 2016 to 2021 I created four related bodies of work that explored my experience of my mother’s passing from her increasing frailty, to my role as her executor, and the grief I experienced through it all. Three of the bodies of work were made in nature: one in the forest, two at the edge of a body of water.
In 2016 in response to the frailty and vulnerability I witnessed during daily visits to my mom’s personal care home, I made myself vulnerable as I lay on the ground in the woods, for 45 minutes at a time and recorded the experience with hand-built pinhole cameras suspended from the trees above and scattered around me. I continued this uncomfortable and challenging ritual for a year, experiencing shifting vulnerabilities with the changing seasons, and created the works in the series the ground beneath me. Part way through the year, my mom passed away.
One year into this forest ritual, I moved from the woods to the shoreline of nearby Clear Lake. For three summers (2017, 2018, 2019) I visited the same spot along the shoreline making long exposure pinhole photographs of myself lying, sitting and standing in the water as I experienced the grief of loss and created the works in the series at the water’s edge. The endurance and pain required to make these long exposure pinhole photographs in freezing cold water echoed my experience with grief. This was the beginning of my healing and I came to recognize the powerful space created by the intersection where water and land meet, a liminal place of instability, a space filled with potential.
The final portion of this extended exploration of loss involved healing and acceptance again through ritual performed at the shoreline. In 2020, I was drawn to the water to make work again but this time to Lake Winnipeg where I had spent time every summer as a child with my family. At this edge, this fault-line between one element and another, at this particular liminal place that resonates with my childhood memories, I created the final series of images as I worked with the material expressions of those elements: plant, stone, sand, and water, along with sunlight. I experimented with different methods of mark making and camera-less capture using the lumen printing technique as I created the works in the series in its path.
Sarah Crawley is a photo-based artist whose work explores aspects of memory and identity based on ideas generated from lived experience. Working primarily with analog photography she has also explored combining printmaking – specifically screen-printing, etching and blind embossing – with the photographic image. Her works have been exhibited as large-scale prints, installations and book works. Crawley has mounted numerous solo exhibitions in galleries across Canada including The ODD Gallery (Dawson City, YK), Estevan Art Gallery and Museum (Estevan, SK), Platform Centre for Photographic and Digital Arts (Winnipeg, MB), aceartinc (Winnipeg MB), Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba (Brandon, MB), The Photographers Gallery (Saskatoon, SK), Stride Gallery (Calgary, AB) and Gallery Connexion (Fredericton, NB). Her photographic works have been included in many group exhibitions including Subconscious City at The Winnipeg Art Gallery, Latitudes at the Belgrade Cultural Centre, Serbia and Proof (2) at Gallery 44, (Toronto, ON). Her work is held in the City of Winnipeg Public Art Collection, The Province of Manitoba Art Collection, The Government of Canada Global Affairs Department Art Collection, The Walter Phillips Gallery Collection at The Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Visual Art Bank of the Manitoba Arts Council, among others. An active member of the visual art community in Winnipeg, Crawley enjoys sharing her passion for photography through teaching and mentoring and is currently engaged in a community public art project with the South Valour Residents Association through the Winnipeg Arts Council’s WITH ART program.
Crawley acknowledges living on and engaging with Treaty One Territory, the original lands of Anishinaabeg, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota, and Dene peoples, and the homeland of the Red River Métis Nation.
This presentation is part of the convergent program:
in | at | on : RETURN TO WATER 2023