London artists in Havana, Cuba, group exhibition, 1988, organized by Jamelie Hassan and Ron Benner. From left to right: Ron Benner, Hugo Jimenez, Casa de las America staff, Jamelie Hassan, Greg Curnoe, Carmen Bedia, Cuban translator Murray Favro, Fern Helfand, Christopher Dewdney, and Canadian Ambassador to Cuba Michael Kergin, standing in front of Fern Helfand’s work in la Galería Latinoamericana.
Banner Image: Duel, 2013 (In the Broken Islands off the coast of Vancouver Island, BC)
Fern Helfand is a photo-based artist and educator living in Kelowna, BC. Helfand’s art production has always been influenced by the environments and cultures in which she has lived, worked, and travelled. Throughout Fern’s forty years working in the arts, she has explored issues addressing cultural observation and commentary, tourism, consumerism and ecology, environmental concerns, racism, and the changing medium of photography itself. She has devoted a very large portion of her career to teaching: Western University, London, Ontario (1982–89); Universiti Sains Malaysia, Penang, Malaysia (1989–92); University of British Columbia Okanagan, Kelowna, BC, (1998–2018) and other positions.
Technically, Helfand has most often gone beyond the constraints of conventional photography. In the early ’80s, she was working with montaged imagery printed onto hand-sensitized paper and fabrics using cyanotype and brown print methods. She later combined collaged photographic prints on paper with drawing, creating large-format works like the panorama Tourists at Niagara Falls, which measured four feet high and thirty feet long. This work was first shown at the Photography Gallery at Harbourfront in Toronto and later was part of Casa de las Américas, the Cuban exchange exhibition organized by Ron Benner and Jamelie Hassan, in partnership with the Forest City Gallery and shown in Havana in 1988. It was natural for Fern to move from cutting and pasting photographs to doing the same using Photoshop during the mid-1990s, and she has worked almost exclusively with digital imaging since then.
Fern was an early supporter of the ECH and had a solo exhibit at the ECH in 1983, the year the exhibition programs began. She participated in two group exhibitions and many of the subsequent events programmed. As of today, she is part of the newly formed ECH Advisory Circle.
Fern has shown her work in solo and group exhibitions across Canada and internationally. She is currently the president of the board of the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art in Kelowna, BC. For more information and details, please see her website www.fernhelfand.com.