Marlene Creates

photo: Sally LeDrew, 2007

Biographical Notes

Marlene Creates (pronounced "Kreets") is an environmental artist and poet who lives and works in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada, surrounded by the six-acre patch of boreal forest that has been the focus of her work since 2002.

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 from Lewisporte and Fogo Island.

For almost 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). This led to several years of working with what she called ‘memory maps,’ which were drawn for her by other people (as in the series The Distance Between Two Points is Measured in Memories, 1986–1988, and Places of Presence: Newfoundland kin and ancestral land, Newfoundland 1989–1991.)

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.

Currently her work is focused on the six acres of 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;

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 (including a solo retrospective exhibition currently touring nationally, Marlene Creates: Places, Paths, and Pauses / Marlene Creates : Lieux, sentiers et pauses), and in Austria, China, Denmark, England, France, India, Ireland, Korea, Scotland, and the United States. Since 2005 she has held over 40 site-specific, multidisciplinary events in The Boreal Poetry Garden, which have been attended by over 800 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, and 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.

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 work 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 the Advisory Committee on the Environment (ACE) 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 the 1996 Artist of the Year Award from the Newfoundland and Labrador Arts Council, the first visual artist to receive this award. In 2009 she received 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," and the 2009 CARFAC National Visual Arts Advocate Award "for an outstanding contribution to visual arts advocacy." In 2013 she received the BMW Exhibition Prize, which acknowledges "an outstanding Open or Featured exhibition" in the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto. In 2014 she won the Grand Jury Award at the Yosemite International Film Festival. She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2001.

- Full Curriculum Vitae -

copyright (c) Marlene Creates