January 6 – February 17, 2023
The Main Gallery
Created during the isolation and social changes brought on by a global pandemic, Tammy Salzl’s “Emerald Queendom” was exhibited in Harcourt House in May/June of 2021 and only available to isolated audience members in the height of the third wave of infections via photo documentation and video, both created by aAron Munson and presented on Harcourt House’s website. Regrettably, its immersive character had not been available for in-person experience. Harcourt House’s management decided to re-stage this important evocative project to allow to experience in-person the magic character of this conceptually complex multi-media installation.
“Emerald Queendom’s” magic character allows visitors to be immediately immersed, upon entering Harcourt House’s Main Gallery, in an enchanted forest filled with fairies. Visitors are fully transported from the world outside the gallery into Salzl’s world, suspended between a life-sized forest realm and a miniature world populated by static humanoid creatures, animal and plant life both familiar and unknown, and video elements of a natural world seamlessly embedded into the sculptural diorama.
Set in a post-human time, these tiny symbolic protagonists propose an egalitarian civilization and a reality beyond gender, where all creatures are kin, living in balance in a place where magic still exists. Salzl transforms the gallery space with a skillful and exquisitely crafted blend of found objects, hand- made polymer clay figures of exquisite care and detail, crafted landscapes, and both projected and screen-based digital video. Beams of light filter through trees and illuminate spiders, mushrooms, and fairies whose bodies are part flower and part female. But Salzl’s fairies are not idyllic renditions. They take the viewers back to the hearths of ancestral matriarchs who related life as it was: cruel and unpredictable, yet magical. Salzl brings us into this world to witness the love and fear, cruelty and nature possible in our wake. These intricate scenes draw the viewer in to examine the beauty and the interplay amongst figure and scene. The raw and discomforting actions held within these scenes, and the relationship with the moving images inspire emotion and questions that linger deeply within the viewers imagination. A 6-channel semi-generative soundtrack commissioned from Greg Mulyk – an Edmonton-based composer and sound designer – provides an impressive ‘sound illustration’ for Salzl’s installation.
Mulyk’s soundscape sets the stage for Salzl’s table-top mixed-media installations of hills, lakes with videos of underwater life, and miniature houses inhabited by strange creatures. He responds to Salzl’s visuals with an immersive forest soundscape that carries the viewers from their empirically defined world into the artist’s imagination.
“Emerald Queendom” is driven by Salzl’s preoccupation with the power of storytelling and her passion for the natural world and ecology. The artist’s fascination is deeply rooted in the way fairytales and myths impact and shape the everyday stories we tell, especially those inherited from Euro-settler’s culture. This conceptually complex installation strives to address their codification of ideas of “femininity” and “nature” and their subsequent filtration through the critical lens of feminism.
Inspired by Christine de Pizan’s, “The Book of the City of Ladies” from 1405 – a proto-feminist tale about an allegorical city built on the accomplishments of women of history – and Donna Haraway’s 2016 book, “Staying with the Trouble: Making Kin in the Chthulucene” – Tammy Salzl has cleverly adopted both authors’ essential message into the lead theme of her project. Emerald Queendom is a call for kinship and joy through an allegorical ‘Forest of Ladies’. By constructively resolving the challenging formal aspects of these works, she turns them into a holistic and conceptually innovative multi-media installation. Folding moving images with still, sound with light, and invoking the element of time, Tammy Salzl’s desire, as a visual artist and conceptual alchemist, is to transport the viewer into her realm.
Executive Director/Chief Curator
Harcourt House Artist Run Centre
Tammy Salzl is a mid-career, creative Edmonton-based visual artist, a graduate of the University of Alberta (BFA in 2000) in Edmonton and Concordia University (MFA in Painting & Drawing in 2014) in Montréal, and a sessional instructor of senior level painting at University of Alberta. She has had solo and two person exhibitions of her work in Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, New York, and Berlin as well as across Western Canada. Following her “Emerald Queendom” exhibition at Harcourt House, Salzl had a large survey exhibition, “Tales From the In Between”, comprised of entirely different multimedia work at Gallery @501 in Sherwood Park, Alberta. She has also participated in important group exhibitions in Edmonton such as: “Storyland” and “Simply Paint” at dc3 Art Projects in 2016 and 2018 respectively, “Dyscorpia” at the Enterprise Square Gallery in 2019, and “Harcourt House: Art In Isolation” at the Main Gallery of Harcourt House Artist Run Centre in 2020. In 2022, Tammy Salzl was awarded with the prestigious 2022 Eldon+ Anne Foote Edmonton Visual Arts Prize (2nd Prize).
Top Image: Emerald Queendom (detail), 2021; polymer clay, dried plants, artificial plants, quail eggs, paint.
Photo courtesy of aAron Munson