I wish to thank Tariq, Jamelie, Ron, and all members of ECH for so generously creating this website which will be of benefit to many.
In 1985, the year after Chimera (the first genetically engineered animal) was shown in the New City of Sculpture, I was invited by Ron and Jamelie to exhibit work at the ECH. My memory of them and of others in London is one of generosity. Paterson Ewen had an afterparty for my opening, in his studio. Everyone was so welcoming. And I see this still evident, with the development of this website, which I was invited to participate in. Those years seem so long ago. The years spent researching for the artworks of that time led me, in part, to leave Toronto in 1990.
I have lived in the Yukon for thirty years. I was lucky to come here in somewhat earlier times, when life was slower and there were special people to learn from. All of this changed my life, and I am indebted to those who shared with me, teaching me the “art” of living.
A big part of my life now is teaching mathematics. I studied with mathematicians from Simon Fraser University and received a master's degree in mathematics education. I tutor mathematics to students at the LDAY Centre for Learning in Whitehorse, where I focus on their development of number sense, taught visually by bringing attention to numbers as pattern, decomposition, observation, contemplation, and logical reasoning. I also teach mathematics for First Nations so citizens may enter trades apprenticeships. And I have taught in the Yukon Native Teacher Education Program and the Nunavut Teacher Education Program.
In the past seven years, I returned to art making. As in the past, an occurrence or experience leads me to ask questions, which next leads to answers, and I spend a great deal of time exploring those. Then I look for the most efficient means to get what I want.
The recent work, aeifwxyz, began with witnessing and photographing the North American Sandhill Crane migration at the Yukon Central Plateau located on the traditional territory of Selkirk First Nation. I was living in Pelly Crossing, and each day I walked up to the “monument” to watch what I called the “cloud show” when the Sandhill Cranes appeared. For five days, they streamed in thousands across the skies. I knew when they were coming because I could hear them first, way over behind the far horizon.
At the same time, “May Gathering” was taking place, and I spoke with Elders about my experiences. The cranes do not land there, so they talked mostly about knowing how the birds fly and talk and that they do not shoot them. In the following years, I did more research and discovered a direct connection to early written language development in another part of the world.
Great continental sandhill crane migrations once took place over Eurasia and North America. In 1000 BCE, Mediterranean people formed some of the letters for their first written Phoenician alphabet from patterns they saw in overhead migrations: thousands of cranes flying together in undulating lines, long multisecting “V”s, mountain outlines—constantly moving and reshaping.
Variations of these letters continued to be in use in the written modern alphabet, including in English. This work is comprised of eight letters, photographed in the latter days of the North American migration route, over the traditional territory of Selkirk First Nation and the Canadian territory known as Yukon.
Yukon First Nations used this alphabet and language to reclaim their losses from those who forbade their own language expression.
Earth Day 2021: Stop Extinction! Restore the Earth
Carolyn Simmons, Phantom Tree Mother in Winter, 2018
Works by Carolyn
Bhopal is a city in Madhya Pradesh, India. On December 2, 1984, a leak at a Union Carbide pesticide plant killed thousands and injured over 500,000 people. See Bhopal Disaster.
Banner Image: Dear Catherine, 1988, Mercer Union, Toronto, Ontario; Walter Phillips Gallery, Banff Centre, Banff, Alberta