Artist Statement – Marianne van Silfhout Gallery

Exhibition – Marianne van Silfhout Gallery

St Lawrence College, Brockville, ON, Canada

Sept 13 – Nov 2, 2013


Two paths have converged with this exhibition.

The first path began in the air in late 2009 when, flying over the St. Lawrence River, I spotted, quite by chance, a rectangular outline in the clear, blue-green water. At first I didn’t quite believe what I thought I was seeing – I had never heard of such a thing as houses, let alone whole communities, under water in Canada and the United States.  A few turns later, I found a road and some more foundations; the entire thing snapped into place with a sidelong glance at the dam in the distance between Cornwall, Ontario, Canada and Massena, New York, USA.

The second path began on the ground in Cornwall in early 2010 when I puckered up my courage and put one of my blue-green images – Downtown Aultsville – in front of someone directly affected by the flooding. I have enough confidence as an artist to know when an image has meaning or carries an emotion; I was worried, however, that it carried too much, that I might be meddling with the sacrosanct, ignorantly plodding into something I did not know or understand.

I need not have worried. While my ignorance was affirmed – I still know too little about this chapter in Canadian and American history – and those affected have reacted, often strongly, to my depiction of what was once their home, the reaction has been an embrace as wide and as honest as we can be as human beings.

It is my hope that this website as part of the Sunken Villages project reflects just a little of that embrace, that my effort to try to capture and refract back to you – the viewer, or the listener – a little of what people told me in a sequence of twenty-seven (and counting) incredible interviews. Parts of these interviews can be seen in video clips on pages profiling each interviewee.

I hope that this art project creates at least a little bit of quiet contemplative space in your thoughts and imagination where you will feel your own feelings and think your own thoughts. And make your own path.