What’s new in your art practice?

Drawing on her background in glaciology and climate change and directly incorporating the current data and modelling work related to ice retreat, Church set out to capture the story of Alberta’s Columbia Icefields in Where are the Snows of Yesteryear?

While I was walking down the street the other day I was stopped by an acquaintance. They wanted to ask what was new in my art practice and when they might get to see some new work. This is a pretty common experience that I imagine most Yukon artists can relate to. The territory is essentially a small town, a small town that happens to be very supportive of our large and diverse arts community. There are only so many opportunities to showcase new work, made even fewer right now with COVID-19. This all equates to the community looking for more opportunities to hear about work than currently exists.

Enter “Behind the studio door.” We’re starting a new column at What’s Up Yukon that will connect with a different visual artist each month in an attempt to answer the question that I got on the sidewalk: what’s new in your art practice and what are you working on right now? As an introduction to this new column, I’ll take the last couple of hundred words I have here to provide my answer to the question for any enquiring minds out there want to know.

The joke in my household has been that I started off 2020 with the longest-running show in Yukon College’s (now Yukon University’s) history. I opened a new exhibit a few weeks before COVID-19 banished us all to our homes to reflect on what we had done. Which meant the show was up on the walls of the Hilltop Bistro, but no one could see it and I couldn’t go and take it down.

For those of you who didn’t get a chance to take it in, it was representative of a style I’ve been exploring since the birth of my daughter, Inara, four years ago (when parenting a very energetic child allows for time in the studio that is). Since Inara came on the scene, our family has been traversing Canada, trying to instill in her a sense of the scope and diversity of the country we call home. In so doing, we have encountered a number of stunning vistas, the likes of which bring people from around the world to our doorstep. There is an inherent juxtaposition in many of these areas that we lose when viewed through our Instagram feeds however. The stunning natural beauty and ecological importance of these regions exists in parallel with the imminent threats putting so many of these areas at severe risk.

I’ve been working to explore this juxtaposition in a way that marries art, science and policy, often incorporating scientific data and research directly into the work to help tell the stories. This feels like a complete expression of myself, bringing my backgrounds in science, policy and conservation directly into my art practice. In the past, I really focused my work on creating as much joy as possible. In part, this was an escape from the mental and emotional toll of my work in climate change and conservation. With a small human now in the picture, I feel I finally have the mental fortitude, combined with a strengthened sense of responsibility to explore the whole picture; bringing both the light and dark to my work.
I’m known for working in mixed media and nothing is ever likely to change that, as I love to bring my work beyond the 2D space, invading the viewer’s space in order to engage them from different angles. I like to break through the natural barrier between the work and outside world. At the moment, to do this, I’m working extensively in ink and watercolour, cut paper, polymer clay and resin.

In terms of what is actually sitting on the studio desk and easel right now? I’ve been taking on a series of private commissions from people who are looking to bring a bit more of the outside into their homes right now, as COVID keeps us all indoors more than many of us are accustomed to. I’m also very excited to reveal that I’ve got two passion projects underway that many have urged me to explore for years. These include a children’s book and a colouring book. Keep your eyes peeled for more on both of these in the new year. I’m also starting to put a couple of new pieces together with an eye to a new exhibit in future, once a vaccine has put our current “new normal” behind us.
In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about what I’m up to, you can check out my website at amberchurchart.com

Church created this triptych, The Hart of the Watershed, as part of the Seen from Afar Plein Air Art Festival this summer, inspired by the trip she took down the Hart River in the Peel Watershed weeks before

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