Tammy Salzl: Emerald Queendom
The Main Gallery: April 30 – June 12, 2021
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre, 3rd floor, 10215 – 112 St, Edmonton
I grew up believing that secret worlds of fairies and little gnomes were real. As a kid I spent many summers on my cousin’s farm in the heart of the prairies, the outsider city slicker who didn’t know how to ride a horse and felt bad for the chickens. In a world far removed from our apartment in the city, I would walk through forested glades, streams, tall fields of grass and wheat, and even my Aunt’s sprawling garden, all the while imagining hidden creatures and inventing stories within these magical realms. Now I fear we’ve created a world where no fairy or gnome could exist, even if they truly were real. Now, every day without quite knowing why, I feel the disquiet of separation.
Emerald Queendom is driven by my preoccupation with the power of storytelling and my passion for the natural world and ecology: the relations of organisms to one another and to their physical surroundings. I am fascinated by the way fairytales and myths shape the everyday stories we tell, especially those tales inherited from euro-settler culture that codify ideas of “femininity” and “nature”, and how stories can be subverted when filtered through the critical lens of feminism.
In 1405 Christine de Pizan wrote ’The Book of the City of Ladies’ in response to the misogyny and gendered violence of her time. It is a proto-feminist tale about the creation of an allegorical city built on the accomplishments of women of history. Over six hundred years later, Donna Haraway’s 2016 book “Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene”, asserts that one way to cultivate the art of living and dying together on a damaged earth is through speculative fabulations and situated feminisms where race, gender, and sexuality are entangled. She proposes we consider ourselves as kin to our surrounding creatures and plantlife. Through kinship, perceived in such a way that we belong in the same category with other living things and are interwoven in a way that has consequences, we may find paths towards building more livable futures. Acknowledging that the difficulty of living in these disturbing and mixed up times can lead to overwhelming feelings of doom, Haraway also advocates for an essential element in this complex equation – the practice of joy.
Emerald Queendom draws from Pizan’s non-hierarchical approach to society and Haraway’s call for kinship and joy to present an allegorical ‘Forest of Ladies’. It is a fabulated ecology for small intricate creatures sculpted from clay, part humanoid and part plant life, who inhabit landscapes of imagined flora and fauna crafted from natural and artificial found objects. Resembling Faeries, these symbolic protagonists imbue their world with colour, humour, sensuality and joy.
Fairies exist as a trope in the narratives of cultures across the globe. Their tales have permeated our current world through folktales, anecdotes, and testimonies. These stories codify human experience and serve as guide to our collective memory as a species. The Fae creatures in Emerald Queendom are recognizable characters recast to disrupt deep-rooted notions. Set in a post-human time, they postulate an egalitarian civilization and a reality beyond gender, where all creatures are kin, living in balance in a place where magic still exists.
Sounds From the Queendom
Over the past year Composer and Sound Designer Greg Mulyk created a 6-channel semigenerative soundtrack in response to the work in Emerald Queendom as it progressed. What you hear in this exhibition is the result of our ongoing artistic exchanges.
Note from Greg Mulyk:
Here you will find a glimpse of a forest long free of human imposition. Unfamiliar creatures may stir, and birdsong, rustling leaves, and trickling streams resonate through a vast cathedral like canopy. For those that linger, the sound of the forest will slowly evolve through different stages of its life. Some may also take a cool plunge into a stream, only to discover the world below is far larger than it appears on its surface. Others may perceive the consequence of a lightning bolt on deadwood, then regrowth from the scorched soil and ash. Please tread quietly, listen, and welcome.
Tammy Salzl is a multimedia artist from Amiskwaciwâskahikan ‘Edmonton’ on Treaty 6 territory. She has presented her paintings, installations and film work across Canada and internationally. She holds a BFA from the University of Alberta and an MFA from Concordia University, Montreal. Salzl is a 2019 Salt Spring Prize Finalist, a 2018 OALA/Ground Award recipient, an Honourable Award Winner in The Kingston Prize, and a Concordia University Tedeschi Scholarship recipient. She has received grants and residencies from: the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, the Edmonton Arts Council, the Conseil des arts et des lettres du Québec, Vermont Studio Center, US; I-Park International Artist in Residence Program, US; KHMessen Art House, Norway; The Banff Centre; the Klondike Institute of Art and Culture Centre, Yukon. Most recent exhibitions include: White Water Gallery, ON; La Centrale Gallerie Powerhouse, Montreal; Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, AB; Art Souterrain, Montreal; Ottawa School of Art, ON. Salzl currently teaches painting at the University of Alberta.
Top Image: Emerald Queendom (detail), 2020
Courtesy of the Artist