Jennifer Wanner | Second Nature
February 24 – June 2, 2017
Helen Christou Gallery | LINC | Level 9

Part of the “You Are Here” series

Reception: March 16, 4 – 6 pm, Main Gallery

Curator: Josephine Mills

Wanner explores western concepts of nature through collage and stop-motion animated video.

2017 is the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation. Over the past couple of years, I was part of many discussions about how to mark the event. Along with other colleagues, I was hesitant to celebrate in a way that only focussed on the sesquicentennial of colonialism in Canada and ignored the vital issues related to the first peoples and the land. When I met with Calgary artist Jennifer Wanner, I found the perfect solution that can mark this important year and pay attention to our effect on the environment around us. This exhibition includes Wanner’s Periculum series that consists of 14 collages: one for each province and territory as well as one for Canada. In this body of work and the related stop-motion animated video, Wanner explores western concepts of nature. To produce the collages, the artist downloads and prints digital images of parts of endangered plants from the Internet database and then hand collages the components to appear as a single organism. The final works resemble 19th Century botanical drawings and, at first glance, they can seem like actual plants.

Rather than celebrating the past, I hope that this exhibition will spark discussion about the future of our environment and our country. It is the first part of the “You Are Here” series that the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery will present throughout 2017. In addition to the collages and video included here in the Helen Christou Gallery, please visit uLethbridge Art Gallery’s Project Channel space on the 11th level of the Library to view more video work by Wanner.

– Josephine Mills, Director/Curator

My art practice examines botanical art and nature cinema in a world dominated by “second nature” – a virtual simulation of pristine “first nature” wrought by the revolution in information, biotechnologies, and consumer culture. I employ watercolour painting, collage, and stop-motion animation to explore how both art historical constructs and scientific objective means of observing the natural world have shaped our western concept of nature. My work attempts to operate between two Romantic realms: fascination with mastery over natural processes and unease with what our technology might unleash.

My recent series of collages is entitled Periculum, which in Latin means: trial; proof; danger; peril; risk; liability. I have downloaded images from the Internet database of the most endangered and threatened plants throughout Canada, according to federal, provincial, and territorial governments. My “field work” has been conducted in the virtual realm of the Internet – a domain where “virtuality destroys reality”. I then printed the botanical images onto high-quality ink-jet paper and carefully cut away each plant from their original context to reconfigure them into a new modified plant form. An individual collage has been generated for each of the thirteen Canadian provinces and territories. A fourteenth collage represents all of Canada and contains a plant species from each of the provinces and territories that is at risk. The development of the Periculum series is supported by a “Visual Arts and New Media Project Grant” from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts.

We are constantly driven to develop technologies and organizational systems that attempt to counteract the negative effects we have already inflicted upon the natural world. With my proposition to “genetically collage” all of the provincial and territorial plant “species at risk” together into one specimen we would only have to concern ourselves with protecting one plant species rather than a diverse range of them – a system of efficiency. These botanical collage images act as another futile and preposterous proposal to help restore and protect what we are on the verge of destroying.

– Jennifer Wanner, Artist

Jennifer Wanner is a Canadian multidisciplinary artist based in Calgary, Alberta, who holds a BFA in Drama from the University of Calgary (1995), a BFA with distinction in Visual Arts from the Alberta College of Art and Design (1999), and an MFA from The University of Western Ontario (2009). She has been awarded a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Scholarship (SSHRC) in 2008, a Visual Arts and New Media Project Grant from the Alberta Foundation for the Arts in 2014 and 2016, and a Calgary Arts Development Artist Opportunity Grant in 2016. Wanner’s work is included in the permanent collection of the Alberta Foundation for the Arts and private collections.

Wanner has exhibited her work in Poland and throughout Canada. Recent solo exhibitions include Immuto at the Dunlop Art Gallery in Regina, Saskatchewan and Florilegium: Jennifer Wanner at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, Alberta. Wanner’s stop-motion animation Herbacentrice was exhibited in the 2013 Alberta Biennial of Contemporary Art at the Art Gallery of Alberta and the OZON 2nd International Video Art Festival in Katowice, Poland. In 2014 her work was included in the Glenbow Museum’s exhibition Made in Calgary: The 2000s. Jennifer Wanner’s work is currently represented by the Paul Kuhn Gallery.