Artist Spotlight: Marlene Creates

Artist Spotlight: Marlene Creates

Environmental artist Marlene Creates reflects on her life and love of Newfoundland after earning the most prestigious honour of her career

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Visual artist Marlene Creates has a fascination and deep-rooted connection with the pristine nature of Newfoundland and Labrador unlike any who have called this great island home. 

It was a pull, gradual at first and then of the full-blown enchantment kind, that brought Creates to live here beginning in 1985. 

“I’m a descendant of people from here,” Creates begins, explaining her descendants stem from Lewisporte and Fogo. 

“I had been to Newfoundland in 1982 to travel around and do certain artworks  did in that time, and I spent a couple of months travelling around the island. I just loved it. I was living in Ottawa at the time and Newfoundland seemed to be a place so rich in its cultural and I just found it had so much meaning for me and I really cared about what happened here.”

Enchanted by nl

Creates was offered a one year position as a curatorial intern for Memorial University’s Art Gallery. 

“Then I really got enchanted, very much so,” she laughed. “I only went back to Ottawa for ten months before I moved back here permanently and I bought a house on Bond Street and I lived on Bond Street for 15 years.”

From Bond Street to her home of 17 years, a six acre patch of Boreal Forest in Portugal Cove-St. Philip’s, Creates has become one of the leading authorities of environmental art in Canada.

The renowned artist and poet has presented her art internationally and nationally in over 350 exhibitions and screenings, delivering more than 200 guest lectures, and has taught visual arts at a host of colleges and universities. Creates’ work is often an exploration of the relationship between human experience, memory, language and the land, and the impact they have on each other.

Presently, her retrospective exhibition Places, Paths and Pauses is touring across Canada, though these days, Creates delves deep into the world around her. 

Minding the footprints

“Now I just pay attention to this living world in my immediate surroundings,” she explains. 

“I don’t travel really anymore for my subject matter. I’m just paying attention to what’s right here … I try to have as small as a carbon footprint to make my work as I do. I don’t work on a monumental scale.” 

This year, Creates has been honoured with the Governor General Award in Media and Visual arts, earning the Artistic Achievement Award in visual art category. She has also been named as a finalist for the 2019 Scotiabank Photography Award.

Ever modest, Creates deflects the obvious amounts of praise given towards a landmark recognition of a lifetime in the arts, preferring to heap adoration on her now longtime home. With the award, Creates has become the first artist living in Newfoundland and Labrador to receive the prestigious Governor General’s Award for Visual Arts. 

“I’m just really happy for Newfoundland and Labrador,” she says. 

As for advice for any aspiring visual artists, particularly those keen on navigating the at times trying road of environmental art, Creates encourages self-confidence and a steadfast belief in a path that works best for you. Leave the reviews to the critics, and let the art speak for itself. 

Be true to yourself

“I would say be true to yourself. If there’s something that you really care about, follow that. This is really hard, but you have to try to not imagine someone looking over your shoulder and what  they’re going to think of your artwork. We don’t know who that person is, some imaginary person.

“It’s some kind of ghost person, and how can we imagine what they would like or what they would buy? Try to be true to your own instinct of what you care about and what you’re interested in. I think that’s the best thing I’d say.”

For more on the life and art of Marlene Creates visit marlenecreates.ca

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