Flora and Fauna
July 6 - August 25, 2013
From the fresh delights of spring, to the abundance of summer colour, ravishing floral splendor greets you now at every turn. Parks and gardens are attracting swarming, creeping and crawling insects, from stunning butterflies to beetles and bees.
The exhibition 'Flora and Fauna' highlights the artists' relationship with the natural world and portrays the artist as environmentalist, historian, storyteller, scientist, and cultural critic.
Abma’s art has always explored a subject in great
depth and from different angles. Her most recent
work, In My Own Backyard, focuses on the micro-
ecosystem in her own garden, a suburban lot in
Brights Grove. Looking through the lens of historical agricultural practice, Abma reflects on colonization, possession, exploitation, species importation and cross-fertilization as she meticulously surveys the biodiversity of her little plot of land. She identifies plants and establishes their alien or native origins.
She has studied the practices of some of her own
forebears, who played a role in bringing European
plants to the new world. The resulting art works
include encaustic collage on panels using 82 different dried plant specimens, lumen prints of native plants, shadowboxes containing antique garden tools with colonialists’ writings printed on their blades, and a sculptural installation using old printer drawers and cabinets, seeds, earth and water. Abma’s work encourages us to pay closer attention to the land beneath our feet.
Amy Swartz takes a more subversive, witty
approach to several of the same themes. She collects not plants and seeds but dead insects. Swartz’s latest work, Pest, makes us question ecological and socio-political practices with very tiny sculptures which – when seen through a magnifying glass – emerge as spectacular amalgams of insects and toy figurine parts.
Displayed in vitrines reminiscent of natural history museum cabinets, this vast collection of meticulously crafted creatures form brigades which seem to engage in epic battles in an alternative, surreal world.
Swartz sees her work as “a metaphor for overpopulation and extinction while at the same time retaining the sense of life’s beauty and eccentricity, allowing us
to contemplate things imagined, feared, longed
for and lost.” Viewers will find themselves amused
and unsettled by Swartz’s human/insect/animal creatures, drawn from history and fantasy to comment on control, conflict, consumerism and the
Amy Swartz currently lives in Toronto and has an MFA (York University), a BFA (Emily Carr University) and a BA (Trent University).
Mary Abma resides in Brights Grove near Sarnia and has a BA and BEd from Western.
Both artists wish to thank the Ontario Arts Council for its support. Additionally, Swartz would like to thank the Toronto Arts Council
for its assistance.