Finding the Essence of Experience in Nature

Yukon artist Helen O’Connor’s textural, organic, large-scale sculpture, assemblages, and installations beg the viewer to reach out and touch them.

The works seem as though they are part of the natural world, not made by human hands. Indeed, O’Connor’s works are made with reverence to nature. However, instead of literal depictions, she tries to find the essence and convey the experience.

“I often work outside, casting rocks or creating poured pulp pieces that are directly affected by the elements: wind, rain, temperature,” she says.

In this way, the works are vessels for nature, as opposed to representations of it.

“I had paper on a rock all winter one year, that bleached completely white with the exposure,” says O’Connor, “When I work outside creating I get to know my environment intimately, every crack and bump on the boulder I am covering with paper. The vegetation and wildlife often goes into the pulp, the water often comes from a nearby stream.”

For O’Connor, making paper by hand establishes and celebrates a physical connection to the earth and also links her to the ancient art of papermaking.

Originally from Ontario, O’Connor studied visual art in the late ’80s, at the University of Western Ontario and at the Ontario College of Art. Here, O’Connor was introduced to techniques for Asian and western papermaking by professor Helmut Becker, and began her own paper explorations.

On Thursday, March 6 at 6 p.m., during the opening reception for the three YAC solo exhibitions, O’Connor will present new multi-media and collaborative elements to her work.

“I’m planning a collaborative performance involving my sculpture with Whitehorse dancer Monique Romeiko and musician Hélène Beaulieau,” says O’Connor, “This event will be documented by Yukon filmmaker Marten Berkman.”

Berkman and O’Connor’s short film, Running with Paper, was featured at the 2013 Dawson City Short Film Festival. Their most recent video installation collaboration Release is featured in Salutation.

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