Photography - ISSUE #14
Meryl McMaster’s work explores the self in relation to land, lineage, history, culture and the more-than-human world. Her work is predominantly photography based, incorporating the production of props, sculptural garments and performance forming a synergy that transports the viewer out of the ordinary and into a space of contemplation and introspection.
Ordovician Tide II. All images © copyright Meryl McMaster. Courtesy of artist Stephen Bulger Gallery and Pierre-François Ouellette art contemporain.
The way we experience the passing of time shapes our relationship to, and understanding of, our immediate world. My awareness of time comes from an overlapping of two distinct approaches - one is that of a linear path that extends in both directions from the present, and another one that is recurrent and cyclical. This intersection of world views has been part of my upbringing, a result of being born into a family both western and Indigenous.
Contemplating time and the countless cycles of life that have recurred around the ancient mistassini (monoliths), sputinas (buttes), wiyacahk (canyons) and ayeakow awacha (dunes) of Turtle Island (a name for Earth or North America) led to the development of As Immense as the Sky. These thoughts left me in a state of wonderment, but also stirred within me a fearful apprehension of our permanent and collective impact upon our beautiful world.
To confront this fear, I sought wisdom in the places of ancestral life, listening to the truths of relatives, elders, friends and peoples who have traversed this land before me. At the social, cultural and environmental contact zones of my Indigenous and European ancestors, I set out to study and collect their knowledge and to animate and re-tell it in a personally transformative process through photography
Many places I visited hold particular meaning for my direct ancestors as they are sites of significant moments in their lives; I was drawn to the sites of ancient stories across central and southern Saskatchewan and to the shores of early settlement in Ontario and Newfoundland, Canada. My aim was to reconnect with those who came before me as a way of introducing myself to the land on which they lived.
I came to see these landscapes as immense time capsules of buried knowledge. As Immense as the Sky is about walking these ancient paths, experiencing the diversity of panoramas, and learning about my ancestors’ wisdom.
The resulting images are a blend and collapse of time into the present. The stories of kayas (long ago) and the foreboding whispers of the future intertwine my body with the land, in the hope that we all maintain a long-term ecological equilibrium with the world around us.
On the Edge of This Immensity
Calling Me Home
Cartography of the Unseen
From a Still Unquiet Place
Between the Start of Things and the End of Things I.
Between the Start of Things and the End of Things III.
Lead Me to Places I Could Never Find On My Own I.
Lead Me to Places I Could Never Find On My Own II.
What Will I Say to the Sky and the Earth I.
What Will I Say to the Sky and the Earth II.
Deep Into the Darkness, Waiting.
Of Universes We Have Just the One.
As Immense as the Sky