Under One Sky

participating artists:

collaborative curators:

supported through CVAG Productions + installation:

The exhibition Under One Sky is a cumulative story of separation and connection told from multiple places, perspectives and voices. “We are all under one sky” – words spoken during an early development conversation – express the core theme of this exhibition that has evolved out of the year-long residency program as part of the OFFSITE_ONSITE convergent program . During this time of heightened awareness to the challenges of being held apart, new opportunities erupted for connecting, considering, and navigating the terrain of separation.

Virtual and in-person artist/curator/collaborating partner gatherings and creative research + production residencies extended over time. This allowed for relationship building, deep inquiry, collaborative production, sustained community engagement and the evolution of the presentations for exhibition. The resulting media and material installations, situated onsite at CVAG and offsite within the community and further afield, offer access points to the states of mind-wandering, loneliness, interception of the unexpected, and the possibilities for relationships with people and places both near and far.

Under One Sky 

Exhibition Opening Virtual Event
Join us on Wednesday 23 June @ 12 pm (PST) for the virtual opening of the public exhibition Under One Sky + artists / curatorial talks + performance
(zoom ID 964 2922 5575 + Passcode: UNDER1SKY) 

Exhibition 16 June – 4 September 2021
CVAG is open to the public during our summer hours (PHO determined)
10 am – 7 pm Wednesdays + 10 am – 5 pm Thursday to Saturday + by appointment.

Offsite Onsite Installation Projects
ONSITE_ at the Comox Valley Art Gallery, Courtenay BC Canada, sound + video installations can been experienced on the lower level 6th Street gallery window and the access space (Nisrene Boukhari, Shelley Vanderbyl) and in the Comox Valley Art Gallery Foyer Community Gallery (Alfredo de Stefano).
OFFSITE_ can be seen in the Village of Cumberland at Dunsmuir Street and 1st Street / in various locations across western Newfoundland Canada (Anne Steves with Tangiene Martin O’Hara) and at the Courtenay + District Museum and Palaeontology Centre (Alfredo de Stefano).

Shelley Vanderbyl (Comox, British Columbia)

Stacked Painting Installation (Fire break (fresco and fire on wooden panel, 8 x 10, 2021), Giving the grease to the wheel that never squeaks (fresco on wooden panel, 24x 36, 2021), Accidental signal fire (fresco diptych on panels 8×8, 8×8, 2021), Help (fire on plastered panel, 2021), Prescribed Fire (video in collaboration with CVAG Productions, 2021))

“In my work I am looking at visual ways to converse about mental health, exploring care and hope. I look for inspiration in many places. I have often drawn connections in my work between the lengths Search and Rescue teams will go to in searching for someone who is physically lost, and the attention that we put into seeking out those who feel mentally distanced. Signal fires have been a recurring theme in my work for many years, representing the desire to be found, or to “let oneself be seen”, as well as a way to improve one’s own morale when lost. Recent conversations about societal systems to “handle” mental health, and the recent fire at the gallery, led me down a path of considering signal fires in a more controlled way. Fire Safety, lighting contained fires using wicks, with intentionality… being purposeful. Little lamps and candles existing in domestic spaces, raising morale, and lighting one’s way. The residency was partially derailed by the fire. The way it intercepted my work that was already about fires, with only a garage door between my studio and the blaze, caused me to stop and consider where I was going. For one thing, I was going out of doors. I hadn’t yet cleared an interior space to work in when I felt the need to continue the project – the outdoors brought new possibilities. As a former construction worker, I’m familiar with using plaster and drywall to contain potential fires. It offers protection to the wooden substrates I use. In the open air, I explored fire as a medium on the plastered panels, reclaiming something destructive to build an image. On the same panels that were cleared of ash from the gallery blaze, I allowed fire to make something new exist.”

The video work Prescribed Fire, shown as part of Under One Sky demonstrates the acts that were undertaken in claiming fire as an art medium following the alley fire that intersected with my residency in the CVAG project room. There I had been melding my ideas with the physical space, having virtual conversations, researching, mind-mapping, writing new ideas on papers and plastering them to the walls. As I moved from the room so that the space could be cared for, I began to use fire as a means to build rather than to destroy, painting with the fire and performing hope as I watched new things being ignited within my practice. The video produced by CVAG productions, and edited by Tom Elliott documents and describes a performance that took place outside my home studio.

Shelley Vanderbyl (b. 1985) is currently a local artist in Courtenay, BC. Part of the military search and rescue community, her relational art practice uses an innovative approach to materials to perform metaphors that demonstrate inner healing. Hospitals, including the prominent New Karolinska Solna in Sweden, have purchased her medicine tins to benefit staff and patients. Her work is in many public and private collections across many countries, as well as in corporate collections such as The Grove Health and Wellness in Courtenay, where she was privileged to be an artist-in-residence prior to the pandemic. Vanderbyl combines conceptual and visual elements from art therapy, expressionism, plaster fragments of antique walls, search and rescue, repairs made to frescoes in the Louvre, and relational aesthetics. Particularly interested in aiding people who are experiencing mental hardships, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder; she asks with her work, “If what someone has seen can leave them broken, can an image be a part of their healing?”

Shelley Vanderbyl (website)

Nisrine Boukari (Vienna, Austria)

The Blue Was More Distant Than The Sky (video installation, 9:07 min., 2021)
Produced in collaboration with Havremagasinet LansKonsthall

“Mind-Wandering is a complex and dynamic state of mind where the mind wanders across several thoughts, feelings and imaginations.

In my art-based research projects, I use language to invoke a distinctive mind’s energy on discovering a new terrain of the imagination implicating the body and the mind in an immersive poetic and conceptual experience by using conceptual writing, fragmentation and deconstructed narrative.

My artistic practice emerged from studying the art walking through the body’s mental-driven movement into different aspects. In recent years, I use the drifting mind as part of long-term research on the state of Mind-Wandering.

I create sensorial and participatory installations focusing on body and space, responding poetically through the choreographed audience to blur the boundaries between the artist and the viewer. Like the body, language is both personal and the actual prevalence of public relations. I am researching how language through words, sound and visual interaction occupy a physical space and confirm expanded bodily existence despite movement difficulties, such as in the case of exiled people.

My art’s genesis extends outwards from the conventional use of language to the complexity of a traumatised memory and the instantaneity of self-generated thoughts. Since 2012, I have been researching on the State of Mind-Wandering, where I investigate the effects of trauma on the human psyche through the case of Mind-Wandering State and the use of the artistic practice in a therapeutic trajectory and how as an artist can create visual/textual environments where viewers experience their own perceptual processing through the art experience. Thus, I have coined Wanderism and announced it as a State of Mind; Wanderism is presented as a form of mental diversity and aims to explore potentials on de-stigmatising mental health issues based on my interest in studying philosophy of mind and the intersection between neuroscience and social matters.”

Nisrine Boukhari is a conceptual artist who lives in Vienna & Stockholm. She studied Sculpture in the Faculty of Fine Arts at Damascus University, finished her M.A. in Social Design at Angewandte Kunst Wien (University of Applied Arts Vienna). She is pursuing her art-based research internationally. She had an artist/research residency at Iaspis/Sweden, Serlachius Museum/Finland, Trapholt Museum/ Denmark, MAWA art residency Winnipeg/Canada, NKDALE art centre Norway, Art Omi in NYC, and many other residencies.

She exhibited her work internationally at MMSU Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art at Rijeka/Croatia, Buildmuseet Umea/Sweden, Trapholt Museum Kolding/Denmark, The World Culture Museum Gothenburg/Sweden, The National Museum of Contemporary Art (Museu do Chiado) Lisbon/Portugal, Museet for Samtidskunst, Roskilde/Denmark, Nederlands Fotomuseum Rotterdam/Netherlands, Casoria International Contemporary Art Museum Casoria/Italy, and other places. Boukhari was selected as “Artist of the Year” by the Swedish Art Association in 2019. Some of her works are acquired by international museums and art institutions.

Besides her artistic career, Boukhari is a co-founder for AllArtNow, the first independent contemporary art organisation in Damascus since 2005, the co-founder of Living Spaces International Festival for Contemporary Art in Damascus, and the co-founder of Studio1: The Informal School for Contemporary Art in Damascus 2011-2012.

Nisrine Boukhari would like to acknowledge the collaboration of Havremagasinet LansKonsthall in the production of The Blue Was More Distant Than The Sky.

Nisrine Boukhari (web site)

Nisrine Boukhari (Instagram)

Alfredo De Stefano (Saltillo Coahuila, Mexico)

Constellation (video, 2:36 min., 2019) / Meteoritos (video, :57 min., 2020) / VISIT MY STUDIO / VISITA MI ESTUDIO  (video, 4:00 min., 2020)

My photographic work of the last twenty years is characterized by that relationship with nature and space, focused especially on the recording of a particularly captivating landscape: the desert. This personal interest has led me to travel the most diverse deserts of many countries on the five continents of the world.

This unique environment – which is at the same time the origin of where I was born: the north of Mexico – generates different visions and reflections. The desert is marked by a sense of the immeasurable; a vast space, with imprecise limits, whether geographical or existential, which recall the profound loneliness of man in front of himself and the universe, but which can also transmit sublime moments of profound intimacy and contemplation.

Since 2019 I have been working on a new body of work with the use of drones:

Constellation Man’s desire is for heaven, to understand it in order to understand himself. Every surface indicates the direction of it. Our gaze, our fingers, are directed towards him. We look for answers in his stars. We observe it other times dark; others, in a blue dawn or in a red that burns. The stars look at us from the black night, and we draw them in imaginary strokes, to orient ourselves, to continue on the path of uncertainty of not having understood anything.

Meteoritos In the bright hours of the day, over the scarred surfaces of this planet, I run like a meteorite that refuses to disintegrate. Humans seem to run for the destruction of the planet, but now we are the destroyers, like the meteorite that exterminated the dinosaurs millions of years ago.

Offsite installation – Dinosaur – Courtenay + District Museum and Palaeontology Centre

Alfredo De Stefano Farías is considered one of the most important contemporary conceptual photographers in Mexico. His passion is the landscape and specifically the desert, a panorama that he has traveled countless times photographing and intervening in it. Among his photographic series are: Of places without a future (1992), Vestiges of Paradise (1996), Replenishing Emptiness (2002) and Brief Chronicle of Light (2006). From 2008 to 2018 he worked on his longest-running project, Storm of Light, which takes place in different deserts of the world.

Recently he is working on three new series in parallel: Black Forest, a visual document about fires and their consequences in the nearby forests where he lives. Dinosaur, a review, and re-interpretation of his photographic archives on paleontological discoveries in which he worked for years, and Constellation, a project of videos of interventions and performance in the desert filmed with a drone.

There are more than ninety exhibitions to his credit, between individual and collective, and his work has been exhibited on five continents, as well as in different capitals of the world: México, Paris, Sao Paulo, New York, Washington, Madrid, Bogotá, Lima, Buenos Aires, London, among other cities. His photographs have appeared in numerous books and magazines and his work is in public and private collections in Mexico and abroad. Since 2008, he has been a member of the National System of Creators (Mexico). He is the cultural manager and director of the Contemporary Photography Contest in Mexico and Latin America, as well as the Luz del Norte International Photography Festival in Monterrey, N.L.

Jury in international competitions such as Vogue Italia, Verzasca-Foto Festival in Switzerland, Burn- Emerging Photographer Fund, Holland and AI-AP Latin American, New York. Portfolio reviewer at PHOTON Festival, Valencia, IMAGO Festival, Lisbon, Cali Foto Fest, Colombia. Nominator for the 6×6 Global Talent Program / World Press Photo.

He directs and founded the non-profit organization Luz del Norte Photography, A.C. dedicated to promoting and disseminating the diversity of Mexican and Latin American photography through various platforms.

Alfredo De Stefano (web site)

Anne Steves (Cumberland, British Columbia)

Contact (video, 26 min., 2021) / Tracing (video, 6 min. 30 sec., 2021)

“I have been making community-based works that explore distance and belonging through craft and making practices. These works have relied heavily on artist residencies as site and subject matter. In 2016 my husband and I moved to the Village of Cumberland on Vancouver Island, and my art community became primarily a digital one. Distance became both a financial and social challenge within my practice. In response I reached out and asked over 100 artists and writers to provide me with an image of the places in which they make their work. As the images slowly piled up in my inbox, COVID-19 flooded into our lives and the work of reaching out to people gained heightened importance. Artist residencies were put on pause, as were exhibitions.

a sense of abandon / but not a lack of discipline is a quote from pioneer photo-montage artist Hannah Hoch. At multiple times during the project, I thought about the ways in which collage might offer the freedom to imagine a future re-framed. The use of existing imagery implies not a new start but a metamorphosis. For Hoch, this was of particular importance as a woman venturing outside of traditional social roles. As we were all asked to stay at home, a little piece of me felt the walls closing in. How easy would it be for us to revert rather than transform during these dangerous times?

I turned to the studio images and began a daily practice of working into the images through collage, using existing imagery to fill the studios with improbable collaborations, emotional landscapes and imagined futures. Paper fragments describe the possibilities for relationships between here and there, me and you.

These collage works have been converted into mail-out posters with letters embedded in them to the participating artists and writers. Each letter responds to a message that I had received during the making process. I asked for a copy to be posted somewhere in their neighbourhood or environment and photographed. Through this act, each participant becomes a curator, choosing how this work is or is not seen in their locale. I am at their whim beyond the digital realm.

a sense of abandon / but not a lack of discipline became a mode of social and creative survival during a pandemic.”

Anne Steves is a first-generation Welsh/Canadian interdisciplinary artist working in the Village of Cumberland on Vancouver Island, British Columbia. She received a BFA in Visual Arts from Emily Carr University of Art and Design and an MFA in Studio Practices from the University of Victoria. Her work has been exhibited across Canada and the UK. Steves has recently participated in the Canadian Craft Biennial residency, the NOVA Young Welsh Artist exhibition and the MAWA Winnipeg artist residency. She has received numerous grants to support her work from both the BC Arts Council and Canada Council for the Arts.

Anne Steves would like to acknowledge the funding support of the BC Arts Council and the Yosef Wosk Foundation. She would also like to acknowledge the collaboration of Tangiene Martin O’Hara and Galliott Studios, Newfoundland.

Anne Steves (web site)

Offsite Collaborating Curator – Abir Boukhari

Abir Boukhari (b. 1973) is a curator from Damascus, Syria, based in Stockholm, Sweden since 2015.

She is the director, curator and co-founder of AllArtNow ( that is considered to be the first independent collective space for contemporary art in Syria, founded in Damascus in 2005, but has since the war broke out in 2012 turned into a nomadic space, working from different places. Since 2019, AllArtNow opened a Lab in Stockholm.

Abir’s work can be described as trans-disciplinary curatorial research. Her projects and exhibitions reflect the interest in socio political issues and tackling concepts of memory as a metamorphic entity, identity and the questions of waiting and belonging whilst being in transfer. Throughout her career, Abir has been specifically interested in literature and its relation to art, developing a curatorial practice that has been distinguished by its openness to new media and transdisciplinary practice.

She has worked as an independent curator since 2005, creating exhibitions for institutions and galleries as varied as Taksim Gallery (Istanbul), Videoformes festival (Clermont Ferrand), the Arab Short Festival (Cairo), Les Instants Festival (Marseille) and others.

In Damascus (2005-2012), she run the artistic programme for AllArtNow, and was the artistic director for Living Spaces Festival for Contemporary Arts, the artistic director of Studio (an informal school for contemporary arts in Syria) and the co-founder of Boukhari House for Artist Residencies and the culture center Maktab Creative Zone.

In 2016, she did a curatorial course for professionals, CuratorLab, at Konstfack in Stockholm. She was then awarded a stipend from the Ulla Froberg-Cramers Foundation. She has previously had internships at Tate Modern in London (2006) and Hamburger Bahnhof in Berlin (2012). She also has a degree in French Literature from the University of Damascus (1998), as well as special studies in business administration from the American business center and Damascus Chamber of Commerce/Damascus (2003).

Since her move to Stockholm in 2015, she has been doing curatorial work, exploring the effects of displacement, culturally and individually and notions on global “nomadism” in collaboration with a number of arts organisations and institutions in the Nordic region and the MENA region, among them: Botkyrka konsthall/Residence Botkyrka (Sweden), Pori Art Museum (Finland), The World Culture Museum in Göteborg (Sweden), KRÆ syndikatet (Denmark), Sörmland Museum in Nykoping (Sweden), Jönkoping Läns Museum (Sweden), Kultivera in Tranås (Sweden), among many others.

She is currently mentor of the Jiser Residency, an international residence program running in between Spain, Algeria and Tunisia.


The Comox Valley Art Gallery acknowledges that we are located upon the Unceded Traditional Territory of the K’ómoks First Nation. CVAG recognizes the enduring presence of First Nations people on this land.

CVAG is grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with artists, guest curators, writers, cultural advisors, community partners, our volunteers, donors + members.

CVAG’s convergent programming is made possible through the support of our funders: Canada Council for the Arts, BC Arts Council, Government of Canada, Province of BC, City of Courtenay, Town of Comox, Village of Cumberland, Comox Valley Regional District, BC Gaming / local support: SD71 Print Shop, Hitec Printing, Sherwin-Williams Paint Store, ABC Printing, MakeItZone, Muir Engineering Ltd. / community collaborator: Cumberland Village Works (digital playback equipment), Courtenay and District Museum & Palaeontology Centre (offsite installation)