Amber Church hopes guests will share her love for the scope and diversity that Canada has to offer. Her solo exhibition True North Strong and Free features new work and is her first solo show in more than three-and-a-half years. She took a break after the birth of her now three-year-old daughter. During that time, she has taken her daughter across Canada, to help her discover her home.
“Since Inara was born we’ve been working hard to introduce her to the country—it’s incredibly important to us that she gets a chance to really know her home,” Church said via email. “She travelled all across Newfoundland and Labrador when she was only three months old.
“So far she’s racked up nine provinces and territories, including some harder-to-get-to corners such as Northern Quebec and Haida Gwaii. Throughout all of these journeys I’ve been creating art journals.”
Those journals have served as the basis for the new show. Once back in her studio, Church felt inspired to expand them into larger works for a wider audience, but still keep the essence of the traveling journal art. For that reason, she explained, she’s incorporated watercolours and ink as a portion of the materials used to create them. She also wanted to convey the various threats that Canada’s ecological places face. To that end, she married art, science and policy; often incorporating scientific data and research directly into the work. Church feels that Canadians don’t necessarily take the time to learn as much about how massive and diverse their own country really is and how much it has to offer.
“I sometimes find that Canadians have more experience in other countries than our own,” said Church. “I have friends who have travelled extensively throughout Europe and South America, but have only visited two provinces.
“It’s not anyone’s fault—Canada is really big and not all of it is very accessible. And when a plane ticket to the east coast costs as much, or more, than a trip to Paris, you can understand how it happens. But in practice it means that there are a group of Canadians whose experience of our nation’s natural diversity and beauty may be more theoretical than practical.”
That accessibility is an element Church has experienced first-hand. Last year, she fulfilled a lifelong dream to visit Haida Gwaii. She’s wanted to go since she first experienced the work of Canadian artist Emily Carr, whose art was inspired by the Indigenous peoples of the Pacific Northwest.
Church hopes that her love of the natural world and Canada is shared with visitors who see her show.
“The sense of how amazing our country is and the reality of how at-risk so many of the natural wonders that make it amazing are,” she said. “In an ideal world I hope that the work can connect with the viewers in a way that causes them to reflect and perhaps even spurs them to personal action. What can I say? I’m an unabashed optimist.”
True North Strong and Free opens Jan. 16 at the Hilltop Bistro at the Yukon College with a reception from 5 p.m to 6:30 p.m.