photo: Sally LeDrew, 2007

Biographical Notes

Marlene Creates (pronounced "Kreets") is an environmental artist and poet who lives and works in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland, Canada. She was born in Montreal, studied visual arts at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and lived in Ottawa for twelve years before moving to Newfoundland in 1985—the home of her maternal ancestors, who were from Lewisporte and Fogo Island.

For over 35 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 (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 (The Distance Between Two Points is Measured in Memories, 1986-1988, and Places of Presence: Newfoundland kin and ancestral land, 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 consists of Water Flowing to the Sea Captured at the Speed of Light, Blast Hole Pond River, Newfoundland 2002-2003, and two ongoing projects: The Boreal Poetry Garden (2005–) which uses words in situ, many inspired by Newfoundland vernacular, and takes the form of photo-landworks, live-art events and a web-based Virtual Walk; and Larch, Spruce, Fir, Birch, Hand (2007–), which concerns the inter-relationship of individual native trees, their context in the collective of the forest system, and the human perceiver, as manifested by the gesture of the artist’s hand touching the tree trunks.

Marlene Creates’s art practice incorporates her work as an educator, environmentalist and community arts activist. She has led multidisciplinary environmental and place-based art projects with over 2,000 school children in Newfoundland. In these projects, students explore the particular attributes of their local environment, community and heritage through field trips, drawing 'memory maps', photographing, writing recollections of their own experiences, and interviewing elders in the community.

She has devoted many years of volunteer work to the arts community, serving nine years on the board of Eastern Edge Gallery, ten years on the Arts & Letters Committee of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador, two years on the national council of the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts, and four years on the board of VANL-CARFAC working for artists’ rights.

Since the 1970s her work has been presented in over 300 solo and group exhibitions across Canada and in Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Denmark, the USA, and China. Her video work has been screened at festivals and conferences in Canada, Austria, India, and the USA. She has also been the curator of several exhibitions, worked in artist-run centres—SAW Gallery in Ottawa and Eastern Edge in St. John's—and taught visual arts at the University of Ottawa, Algonquin College and the Nova Scotia College of Art & Design. She has been a guest lecturer at over 150 institutions and conferences, among them the National Gallery of Canada, the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Oxford, the University of Kent at Canterbury, the University of Hartford, and many Canadian universities. She was an invited panelist at the Fifth National Women in Photography conference, held in Boston in 1997, and 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.

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

Marlene Creates received the 1996 Artist of the Year Award from the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council, the first visual artist to receive this award. In 2001 she was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts. 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.

- Full Curriculum Vitae -

copyright (c) Marlene Creates