Marlene Creates

Marlene Creates (pronounced "Kreets") is an environmental artist whose hybrid processes include memory mapping, photography, video, poetry, installation, scientific and vernacular knowledge, and site-specific multidisciplinary collaborative guided walks in the six acres (2.4 hectares) of old-growth boreal forest where she lives, at the edge of the 920-acre (372 hectares) Blast Hole Pond Conservation Area, which she helped establish in the town of Portugal Cove on the island of Newfoundland / Ktaqmkuk, Canada.

Born in Montreal in 1952, she studied visual arts at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario (Bachelor of Art Education, Honours, 1974), and then lived and worked in Ottawa for twelve years. In 1985 she moved to Newfoundland—the home of her maternal ancestors, who were settlers on Fogo Island and in Lewisporte.

For over 40 years her work has been an exploration of the relationship between human experience, memory, language and the land, and the impact they have on each other. In the late 1970s she started creating temporary landworks which she photographed (as in the series Paper, Stones and Water, 1979–1985). This led to several years of working with what she called ‘memory maps,’ which were drawn for her by other people (as in the series The Distance Between Two Points is Measured in Memories, 1986–1988, and Places of Presence: Newfoundland kin and ancestral land, Newfoundland 1989–1991).

Hearing elderly people’s stories as they drew memory maps for her, and sensing a relationship between language and the land, she spent a decade photographing found public signs in the landscape. She has also been commissioned to create signs and markers that incorporate other people’s stories about specific places.

Since 2002 her work has focused on the six acres of boreal forest where she lives in a ‘relational aesthetic’ to the land. This oeuvre includes Water Flowing to the Sea Captured at the Speed of Light, Blast Hole Pond River, Newfoundland 2002–2003, and several ongoing projects: —The Boreal Poetry Garden (2005–) which uses words in situ, many inspired by Newfoundland vernacular. This work takes the form of photo-landworks, an interactive web-based Virtual Walk of The Boreal Poetry Garden, documentary video-poems, and site-specific, multidisciplinary events, which are crossings between the arts and sciences as a way to look at both the ecological and the experiential foundations of place; —Larch, Spruce, Fir, Birch, Hand, Blast Hole Pond Road, Newfoundland (2007–) which concerns the inter-relationship of individual native trees, their context in the collective of the forest system, and the human perceiver;

What Came to Light at Blast Hole Pond River (2015–), based on photographs taken by a trail camera that is triggered by the movement of wildlife at ground level, and the concurrent movement of celestial bodies overhead. Heaven and Earth, if you like.

Since the mid-1970s her work has been presented in over 350 solo and group exhibitions and screenings across Canada and in Austria, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Korea, Scotland, and the United States. Since 2005 she has held over 40 site-specific, multidisciplinary public events in The Boreal Poetry Garden, which have been attended by over 900 people.

She has been a guest lecturer at over 200 institutions and conferences across Canada and abroad, including Chile, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among them the National Gallery of Canada, the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Oxford, the University of Plymouth, the University of Hartford, the Edinburgh College of Art, and the Universities of Turin, Venice, and Siena. She was an invited panelist at the Fifth National Women in Photography conference, held in Boston in 1997; the keynote presenter at the symposium Art, Rural Life and Environmental Concern at the Bristol School of Art, Media and Design at the University of the West of England in 2008; a plenary speaker at the conference Space + Memory = Place of the Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada (ALECC) at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna in 2012; and a keynote speaker at the conference Trees In/And/Around Literature in the Anthropocene at the University of Turin, Italy, (via Skype) in 2019.

Related Events

The 10th Anniversary Opening Reception of Words

November 3, 2023 at 7:00pm

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GardenShip and State: A Book is a World

November 5, 2023 at 3:00pm

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