NAC is pleased to welcome Sean Whalley back to St. Catharines as part of NAC’s ongoing Homecoming Series. Our series of Homecoming exhibits, now over 15 years on, demonstrates that while there may only be a handful of visual artists with flourishing careers living in Niagara, many paths to success began here.
Sean Whalley teaches Sculpture in the University of Regina’s, Visual Arts Department. He was born in St. Catharines, Ontario and moved to Regina in 1997. Sean utilizes discarded / recycled materials for the bulk of his work in an attempt to realize a sustainable practice. His interest in maintaining a sculpture practice with a low ecological footprint is related to his concern for the environmental impacts that occur with increased human consumption and the continual expansion of our suburban settlements deeper into wilderness territories.
Sean often describes his sculptural practice as one that draws its materials from urban forests, or more precisely, torn out basements for renovations, raised garages, construction detritus and discarded shipping pallets. The hundreds of handmade spoons were made from the wood of used palettes gathered from shipping companies, referencing our dependence on transported goods, consumption and waste.
Girth and Girdle
The photographs are from a series of captured old and second growth trees in suburban Southern Ontario and small reserves located near several towns. The first European settlers to the area were greeted by the then largest broad leaf forest in the world, with trees so large they were unable to fell them. To plants their crops, farmers would ring or girdle the tree, a process wherein they would cut several inches of bark and cambium thus starving the canopy and killing the tree. For the first two or three years, the yields were beyond belief, the soil so rich and fertile. Without the continuous cycles of growth and decay from the tree’s leafy tops, the soil was quickly exhausted and the farmer would move to the next section of forest, slowly clearing the land. This work is an attempt to reclaim and preserve the history of the old growth forest that still remains.