Terroir: belonging to place

Opening on January 3rd and running until February 5th, 2023 at the Ottawa School of Art

Artist Reception Thursday January 19th from 5:00 until 8:00 pm.

Byward Market Campus

35 George Street

Gallery Hours

Monday to Thursday | 8:30 am to 9:00 pm

Friday and Saturday | 8:30 am to 4:30 pm

Sunday | 12:00 to 4:00 pm

Gratitude to the Ontario Arts Council for financial support.

Artist Statement

Terroir gathers several bodies of artwork by Barbara Brown to navigate a new and yet ancient way for us to know ourselves as part of the natural world. 

The term Terroir is used by vintners to recognize all the aspects that contribute to the quality of wine, such as the sun and wind exposure and slope of the land, soil composition and the local weather, etc. Terroir invites us to adopt an elevated and highly engaged form of attention to the environment.

In her practice,  Brown seeks to collaborate in interconnection with the natural world.  Her Longscapes series expands the notion of landscape by elongating the photographic form until it becomes a “longscape”, presented in relationship to plants, allowing for a deeper, more intimate experience of the land.

Dust from the EarthBound series depicts the final step of returning to the earth. In this series of photographs we encounter a figure; a being that evokes the memory of a human now returned to earth. This concept is known in the cycles of the garden where decomposing plants of the previous season become food for next year’s growth. We too are part of this natural cycle. We are bound to the earth, nourished by it and finally return to it. This series may be seen outside the School of Photography Arts Ottawa (SPAO).

Portrait of a Field: Rochester Field is a project that tracks the emergence, flourishing and final destruction of a local “empty green space” just before the arrival of heavy construction equipment to build the new light rail transit line in the west-end of Ottawa. It is a record of what is now likely lost forever.

In wondering just how we are connected to both the earth and those who came before us, Brown constructs an image revealing the rooted system of a plant. She asks, can we recognize the enormity of the ancestry upon which we make our days and not only our human ancestors?  Ancestral Roots take its inspiration from the family tree which stems from an individual, then branches upward to parents and grandparents and so on. Yet this image is reversed with the green shoots as the current generation, supported by masses of roots representing layers of unknowable ancestors.

The Held Bouquets seriesre-introduces human touch by layering embroidery stitches on top of and within photographic images. Stitching slows down the making process and reflects the historic practice of learning embroidery stitches. These compositions are small in scale and are more intimate and familiar to the hand and the needle. In the same way as one learns the stitches of embroidery, these stitches remember flowers that have faded and fallen and recreates what is no longer graced by the full bloom of summer.

Masks are found in many human cultures around the globe as objects that allow role play and shifts of identity. This series of embodied masks arose from Brown’s practice as a forager, as she explored the forests and fields around her and, invites us to see through the eyes of another being in an empathetic and compassionate way. They greet your gaze and show you something of yourself and even function as a tool for transcendence that invites and allows a mental and physical shift as you consider what it is to be of a forest or a field.

Brown’s regard of the plant world in these ways is grounding and orienting. She is inspired by beauty in gardens, fields and forests. We need only look to our natural environment for models of how humans can be more diverse, accepting of newcomers and adaptable to change. Let the natural world that surrounds us in the garden, fields and forests be our inspiration.