AGOG Lyn Baldwin’s “Finding Place” – runs until Labour Day

AGOG Poster Baldwin June 2015-1500

AGOG presents Lyn Baldwin

Finding Place:  Exploring Home through Field Journal Art

Opening reception Friday June 19, 5pm – 7pm

How do we know what is true? How do we populate the imaginary terrain of our own existence with the myths that give life meaning? As a naturalist and ecologist, my work seeks to explore the stories that can be found outside our backdoor in an ongoing expedition to home. In this work, home has come to be defined as an irregularly shaped geographic area in northwestern North America that shows little allegiance to political boundaries but is known, instead, by its natural history. Natural history includes both observing and representing the natural world, and field journals have long been important tools for naturalists. As I have explored home, the pages of my illustrated field journal allowed me to learn a different way of conversing with the natural world. I consider an illustrated field journal no different than an increment borer, microscope or sampling quadrat—all provide different lenses with which to view the world.

Every landscape is storied and we all come to know these stories in our own way. Nearly twenty years ago, my field journal practice began as a minor rebellion against the omnipotence of scientific knowledge. But today, within the format of my field journals (bound in a book, or more recently, spread across a full sheet of watercolour paper), science and art are equally legitimate means of investigating, hearing, and celebrating the natural history found just outside my back door. In my field journals, poetry jostles for space alongside  natural history observations, drawings erupt between lines of handwritten text, and “to do” lists languish beside recorded sightings of returning songbirds. Most importantly, I have come to believe that recording natural history, with its emphasis on the observable, can be undertaken by anyone from an accomplished artist to a young child using stick figures. Natural history reveals the strength of original observation as a way of knowing, and the act of making independent observations—watching a nuthatch cache seeds in tree bark or beetles chewing on newly emerged alder leaves—is both possible and empowering. Natural history has lessons to teach us all.

The pages of illustrated field journals, however, do more than just document. Any field record is an act of translation, as naturalists seeks to decipher the complexity of the natural world into recognizable order. Within any geographic region, individual sites—the edge of a wetland, an 80-year-old forest, even the manicured lawn of a university campus—can run rich with the drama of living ecosystems. Pages in my field journals represent the investigative process of a naturalist and journal entries range from simple diagrammatic sketches to more sustained paintings. All, however, represent moments in time when I could attend to and learn from being in place. For me, belonging—that is, developing a reciprocal relationship with the land, one that includes both gifts and responsibilities—occurs when the land’s line and shadow, its poetry and its science, flow together to form lessons. I never escape my  biases; my conversation with the land often consists of half-remembered plant names, the slight tremor felt underfoot walking into a wetland, or the visual pull of violet-coloured shadows. But if I look, and look hard, illustrated field journal in hand, the natural history of home weaves science and art into a net of knowing, binding me in place.

Lyn Baldwin