Marlene Creates

photo: Marten Berkman, Snake River, Yukon, 2003


photo: Sally LeDrew, 2007


photo: Malin Enström, The Boreal Poetry Garden, Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, 2013


photo: Bernard Fougères, Blast Hole Pond Road, Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, 2018


Her Excellency The Right Honourable Julie Payette, Governor General of Canada, presenting Marlene Creates with her medal for the 2019 Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for “Lifetime Artistic Achievement,” Rideau Hall, Ottawa, March 28, 2019. photo: LS Anne-Marie Brisson, Rideau Hall © OSGG, 2019.


Marlene Creates was invested into The Order of Newfoundland and Labrador at Government House in St. John’s on September 1, 2021. L to R: His Honour Howard W. Foote, The Honourable Judy M. Foote, Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador, Marlene Creates ONL, and Premier Dr Andrew Furey. photo: Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Biographical Notes

Marlene Creates (pronounced "Kreets") is an environmental artist whose hybrid processes include memory mapping, photography, video, poetry, installation, scientific and vernacular knowledge, and site-specific multidisciplinary collaborative guided walks in the six acres (2.4 hectares) of old-growth boreal forest where she lives, at the edge of the 920-acre (372 hectares) Blast Hole Pond Conservation Area, which she helped establish in the town of Portugal Cove on the island of Newfoundland / Ktaqmkuk, Canada.

Born in Montreal in 1952, she studied visual arts at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario (Bachelor of Art Education, Honours, 1974), and then lived and worked in Ottawa for twelve years. In 1985 she moved to Newfoundland—the home of her maternal ancestors, who were settlers on Fogo Island and in Lewisporte.

For over 40 years her work has been an exploration of the relationship between human experience, memory, language and the land, and the impact they have on each other.

In the late 1970s she started creating temporary landworks which she photographed (as in the series Paper, Stones and Water, 1979–1985).

Among her major works is the series The Distance Between Two Points is Measured in Memories in which she de-centered white settler / colonial place-narratives. These works include memory maps (a form of cognitive mapping, also counter-mapping or de-mapping) that were drawn for her by elders—Anishinaabe / Ojibwa in Bawating / Sault Ste. Marie in 1987; and Inuit in Nunatsiavut and Mushuau Innu in Nitassinan / Labrador in 1988.

Hearing elderly people’s stories as they drew memory maps for her, and sensing a relationship between language and the land, she spent a decade photographing found public signs in the landscape. She has also been commissioned to create signs and markers that incorporate other people’s stories about specific places.

Since 2002 her work has focused on the six acres of old-growth boreal forest where she lives in a ‘relational aesthetic’ to the land. This oeuvre includes Water Flowing to the Sea Captured at the Speed of Light, Blast Hole Pond River, Newfoundland 2002–2003, and several ongoing projects:
The Boreal Poetry Garden (2005–) which uses words in situ, many inspired by Newfoundland vernacular. This work takes the form of photo-landworks, an interactive web-based Virtual Walk of The Boreal Poetry Garden, documentary video-poems, and site-specific, multidisciplinary events, which are crossings between the arts and sciences as a way to look at both the ecological and the experiential foundations of place;

Larch, Spruce, Fir, Birch, Hand, Blast Hole Pond Road, Newfoundland (2007–) which concerns the inter-relationship of individual native trees, their context in the collective of the forest system, and the human perceiver;

What Came to Light at Blast Hole Pond River (2015–), based on photographs taken by a trail camera that is triggered by the movement of wildlife at ground level, and the concurrent movement of celestial bodies overhead. Heaven and Earth, if you like.

Since the mid-1970s her work has been presented in over 350 solo and group exhibitions and screenings across Canada and in Austria, China, Denmark, England, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Korea, Scotland, and the United States. Since 2005 she has held over 40 site-specific, multidisciplinary public events in The Boreal Poetry Garden, which have been attended by over 900 people.

She has been a guest lecturer at over 200 institutions and conferences across Canada and abroad, including Chile, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among them the National Gallery of Canada, the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Oxford, the University of Plymouth, the University of Hartford, the Edinburgh College of Art, and the Universities of Turin, Venice, and Siena. She was an invited panelist at the Fifth National Women in Photography conference, held in Boston in 1997; the keynote presenter at the symposium Art, Rural Life and Environmental Concern at the Bristol School of Art, Media and Design at the University of the West of England in 2008; a plenary speaker at the  conference Space + Memory = Place of the Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada (ALECC) at the University of British Columbia Okanagan in Kelowna in 2012; and a keynote speaker at the conference Trees In/And/Around Literature in the Anthropocene at the University of Turin, Italy, (via Skype) in 2019.

She has been the curator of several exhibitions, has worked in artist-run centres (SAW Gallery in Ottawa and Eastern Edge Gallery in St. John's), and has taught visual arts at Algonquin College (1975–82), the University of Ottawa (1982–85), and the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design (1998). She was a director of the Photography Program at the Banff Centre (1991) and an invited academic visitor for the Art, Space + Nature MFA program at the Edinburgh College of Art (fall term, 2015). She has also led multidisciplinary environmental and place-based art projects with about 3,000 school children in Newfoundland.

Her volunteer and community work includes positions with the Board of Eastern Edge Gallery, the Arts and Letters Committee of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, the National Council of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, the Board of VANL-CARFAC working for artists’ rights, and co-founding both the Advisory Committee on the Environment (ACE) and the arts association, Partners for the Arts, for the Town of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's.

Her work is in numerous public collections across Canada, including The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery in St. John’s, the Canada Council Art Bank, and the National Gallery of Canada.

Marlene Creates received a 2019 Governor General's Award in Visual and Media Arts for "Lifetime Artistic Achievement". In 2021 she was invested into The Order of Newfoundland and Labrador, "the highest honour that the Province can bestow" and recognizes "individuals who have demonstrated excellence and achievement in any field of endeavour benefiting, in an outstanding manner, Newfoundland and Labrador and its residents." In 2024, she received an honorary Doctor of Letters
(D. Litt.) from Memorial University.

She has also received the following honours and awards:
–The inaugural Artist of the Year award, a Best of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's Community Award, 2021.
The Mary MacDonald Award for Excellence in Visual Arts (EVAs) from VANL-CARFAC, which "thanks an individual or organization whose efforts have helped to sustain and build the visual arts sector," 2019.
Grand Jury Award at the Yosemite International Film Festival, 2014.
BMW Exhibition Prize, which acknowledges "an outstanding Open or Featured exhibition" in the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto, 2013.
CARFAC National Visual Arts Advocate Award "for an outstanding contribution to visual arts advocacy," 2009.
The Long Haul Award for Excellence in Visual Arts (EVAs) from VANL-CARFAC, which "recognizes a substantial contribution to the visual culture of Newfoundland and Labrador by a senior artist," 2009.
Artist of the Year Award from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, the first visual artist to receive this award, 1996.

Marlene Creates was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2001.

- Full Curriculum Vitae -

copyright (c) Marlene Creates