Gregory Ball in Haida Gwaii

Gregory BallVancouver Island University Visual Arts professor Gregory Ball has been selected to showcase his artwork in a solo exhibition at the Haida Heritage Centre in the village of Kay'llnagaay near Skidegate, Haida Gwaii (formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands). When Ball visited Haida Gwaii with his 79-year-old father, he never expected to be returning a year later to display his artwork in a prestigious First Nations museum. Twelve of Ball's original drawings will be on display at the centre from April 17 to May 23, 2009. "This is a dream come true," said Ball. "I am really excited."

Last spring, the Haida Heritage Centre invited artists to submit exhibition proposals for the spring and fall of 2009. Ball was selected by a juried committee to exhibit graphite drawings from his series called "Transfigurations of the West Coast landscape" which he developed the work after his trip.

"When I returned, I went back into my studio and documented some of the things I had seen in Haida Gwaii," explained Ball. "I had noticed quite a lot of clear cutting. So I documented some of physical remnants found on sites extricated by logging in order to explore the persistent modern project of development and destruction that lies at the core of our ideas about the natural environment." The resulting drawings depict the landscapes, flora, and fauna of British Columbia "in an ephemeral, disquieting manner," said Ball.

In his drawings, solitary trees materialize out of minimized landscapes. The trees act as both a metaphor for the human form and a statement about the reduction of the natural environment. "My process includes stenciling and blocking out areas of the paper with a fine dust of powdered graphite," explained Ball. "The subjects in these drawings emerge from the background on which they have been placed and create deep pictorial space. They are frail and enduring, and are set against an increasingly desolate horizon, which makes their relationship to limbs and their human-like stature more apparent. There is a compelling sense of impermanence and a perpetual process of decay evoked in these works, which parallels both natural and unnatural cycles in the Queen Charlotte Islands."

For Ball, the exhibition is an opportunity to display his work in a location significant to its creation and concept. And he expects his return visit to Haida Gwaii will be even more meaningful. While visiting the community, he will make a presentation at the opening night of his exhibition, but he also hopes to "engage in conversations with the local community that inspired the work and the people that are affected directly by the social, political, environmental and cultural issues that arise from the themes presented in my work."

"To me, this trip to Haida Gwaii is about more than an art exhibition," he said. "I see it as a wonderful opportunity to make connections with the people in Haida Gwaii and forge a deeper and more meaningful understanding of their culture and their people."

The Haida Heritage Centre is dedicated to conserving and making accessible the human and natural history of Haida Gwaii through exhibitions, research, and public programs. The $26 million centre is a series of longhouses connected by interior walkways and fronted with six traditional totem poles representing each of the 14 clans. The feeling is of a traditional Haida seaside village, and a celebration of the living culture of the Haida people. Thousands of visitors from around the world have enjoyed visiting this new facility and its programs, in the beautiful natural setting that is Haida Gwaii.

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