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Experience climate change through art with new exhibit

The 120-square metre silkscreened floor cloth was created in Sweden in the fall of 2022. The original format was developed for Estevan's space. So, the current exhibition marks the first time the work has been displayed in full.
Saskatoon-based artist Monique Martin was at the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum to present the Vicissitude exhibition, created in collaboration with Swedish artist Alexandra Hedberg.

ESTEVAN — It's not every day a person gets to walk on art, but Monique Martin says she wanted the piece to create a conversation. Displaying it on the floor appeared to be a stronger way to achieve that.

"[We made it on the floor] to make people wonder, and to make them wonder why I'd make something so big. What am I trying to say? And what I'm trying to do is have people have a conversation about climate change," said Martin during her visit to the Estevan Art Gallery and Museum for an artist's meet and greet on April 19.

"I have forest fires, I have a wind tornado, I have drought, melting glaciers, and flood," she outlined, pointing at different areas of a canvas covering the entire floor at Gallery 1.

"Whether you believe in climate change or not, this piece will create conversation. And that's what I want to do with my art. I want people to engage in a conversation with themselves in the art, and then tell other people, 'There was this piece, and it's about this, and what do you think? You should go see it.' And I think if I put it on the wall, it doesn't create that same energy. You will remember stepping on art for the first time, right?"

The Vicissitude is one of the two latest exhibitions that opened at the EAGM. It features collaborative work by Saskatoon-based multi-disciplinary artist Martin and Swedish artist Alexandra Hedberg.

The 120-square metre silkscreened floor cloth was created in Sweden in the fall of 2022. The artists made it in pieces working on a huge table. The project started with support from the EAGM's former director/curator Amber Andersen, and the original format was developed for Estevan's space. So, the current exhibition marks the first time the work has been displayed in full.

"Amber was very key in making this happen and believing in the project," Martin said.

The piece depicts the various impacts on the Earth from climate change – flood, fire, erosion and drought – that can be walked on by viewers.

"We use silkscreen because it allows us to be repetitive, to print the same thing again and again. The main motif in the piece is butterflies that are throughout because they are the symbol of transformation. We're all being transformed by climate change. And we're all trying to transform how we live our lives so that we can protect the planet," Martin explained.

"The exhibition is called Vicissitude, because it's another word for change, but for negative change. Floods aren't great, fire's not great, drought's not great. None of those things are good in the world. And we have all that change that's happening, that's negative, so that's why we chose that word. But the butterflies are there as symbol of hope: if we teach the new generation not to be so wasteful, it can get better."

Butterflies and their transformation as a motif and inspiration came into Martin's life and art during the pandemic, and she now has 20,000 silkscreened paper butterflies that also travel in an exhibition. Butterflies also became the element that brought the two artists together.

"I knew Alexandra, and she was doing butterflies, but dead butterflies. … We started talking and I was also working on climate change pieces … And we knew that those two concepts for both of us were really powerful – the transformation image and the climate change.

"So, we decided to force the two together. So, the fire is made up of parts of butterflies repeated and repeated and repeated. And in some exhibitions, my butterflies go above with the floor cloth. It just finished in Edmonton, and it had both the floor cloth and the butterflies, the two symbols, the hope above it and kind of the disaster underneath," Martin shared.

Martin noted that working with Hedberg was very positive.

"Even without speaking, we would just flow through it. It was quite amazing."

The entire piece is populated with many different repeating images offering guests to explore the topic deeper, reflect on what they know about climate change and maybe learn something new.

Martin estimates that about 15,000 people have walked on the art piece, and it really stood up to the test so far. It also has started many conversations, part of which reach her through social media and other avenues of feedback.

"Even if one person gained something from my exhibition, it's a win for me," Martin said.

Martin's work has been on display in Estevan before. Her Context is Everything exhibition – a world of paper dandelions – made it to the Energy City in early 2021.

Vicissitude as well as Resist at Gallery 2 will remain on display until June 7.