The land breathes… Closing my eyes, I feel the earth beneath me. I cannot prove to you it breathes. I feel it. You can feel it too if you are willing… If you are open. Much of what you will encounter in my work arises from a relational felt-reality. I am a feeling-being who has lived half a century in relationship with the spirits, with the land, and with sacred knowledge. In my early life, I did not name my experiences as such – they were simply “my life.”
I identify as a second-generation Ukrainian Canadian settler, currently living as an uninvited guest in unceded traditional Quw’utsun' territory. It was on Wsanec territories, just south of Quw'utsun' territory, that the land began to teach me. In fact, as I reflect backward on my life, I believe it has always been speaking to me, as it does to each and every being. However, it was on Wsanec territory that I finally began to listen and learn. I have lived in several different territories through my life, and the infusion of the memories of each land and its peoples has woven itself through my writing, crafting, and living.
While creating a series of relational land-based crafting and writing projects, I reconnected with a message Odawa elder Wilfred Pelletier offered me in 1993: The individual, community and land are viewed as “one.” When the health and well-being of the land suffers, so too does the health of the community and the individual. If disease appears in an individual, then it likewise afflicts the community and the land. All are entwined – suffused within one another – and inform one another.
If I were to visit Ukraine, I would be visiting the lands of my ancestors. It is not my homeland. Being born in “Canada”, I must acknowledge my place as a settler-guest on these lands. How then do I (or any settler) “root” sacred knowledge and traditions? Being in right relationship with sacred knowledge means also being in right relations with the land and all its peoples and inhabitants. Right relations strengthens that which we carry and express and helps support a healing process across all lines and times. This is not something I can prove. It is something that I feel.
The pieces I craft are relational. Relational to the individual or community they are made for; to the lands I, as a guest, live and walk upon; to the spirits and ancestors; and to the materials I work with. I craft in ceremony, aligned with the folk- and healing-traditions of my Ukrainian grandparents.
• Main media: textiles, plants, eggs, bones, beeswax, and elements (particularly earth, water, and fire).
• Main modes of expression: traditional Ukrainian crafting (Motanky – talismanic dolls; Pysanky – talismanic eggs; Rushnyky – talismanic cloth); bone “writing”; photography and anthotype printing; and written word. I also create interactive exhibits to engage audiences directly with the multidimensional potential of art and crafting within ceremony, folk practice, and land/ community “right relations”.