Edging Forward by Ann Dale

Edging Forward by Ann Dale

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Edging Forward Exhibit

September 27, 2017

Ann Dale & Nancyanne Cowell
October 10th – November 10th, 2017

Robert Bateman Centre
Victoria, BC


We have enough knowledge, science, and innovation to act now on sustainable community development, so what is holding us back? Why can’t we leap back from the edge onto new sustainable pathways?

After realizing that something was missing in conversations on sustainable community development, Ann Dale and Nancyanne Cowell came together to explore some of the missing threads: love, compassion, and the power of storytelling. Art and science are traditionally separate disciplines, with the former focused on expression and creativity and the latter centered on the pursuit of data and discovery. However, given the unprecedented nature and scale of issues our world is facing, they decided that bridging the two disciplines would tell a more compelling story. Edging Forward: Reconnection, Reconciliation, Regeneration is an art and literary project that illuminates the power of collaboration. As the social scientist and artist explore what is holding us back, they bring new perspectives to the conversation about how to leap towards a more sustainable world.

Dale’s latest manuscript, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development, weaves together over 15 years of research on sustainable communities into a compelling story about how we can no longer merely edge forward, rather we must leap forward. She frames her research and discovery through a literary journey that also shares deeply personal and poetic life experiences. Throughout each chapter, she explores our relationships to one another, to other species, and to our planet. She contemplates how a single story of growth has come to dominate our narratives and why we struggle to embrace diversity and difference. By blending storytelling with science, Dale uncovers how the power of our narratives can not only lead us towards positive social change but also a more resilient and empathetic world.

Responding to the core ideas in Dale’s manuscript, Nancyanne Cowell created large-scale oil mixed-media paintings to illuminate each chapter theme. Her luminous works channel the dramatic and often turbulent landscapes of English Romantic painter, Joseph Turner. Chromatic strokes of blues, greens, and magentas alternate from thick to thin swirling horizontally and vertically across the foreground. Teeming with light and motion, Cowell’s powerful yet sensuous paintings also echo the style and techniques pioneered by the Impressionists, including Claude Monet. Her gestural brushwork not only builds structure and texture across large surface areas but also manifests her inner voice and emotions. Notably, her unique approach to composition channels the vitality of nature, thereby offering new perspectives.

Made up of two unified canvases, each painting flips the traditional landscape on its end and adopts the orientation of a portrait, eliciting a visceral connection with the human body. The merging of two canvases, magnified by sweeping brushstrokes, depicts the earth’s crust. Architecturally, this feature also signifies the interconnection between our built and natural environments. Subtle details of nature are framed by rustling wind and crashing waves, blending the abstract with the figurative. If you look closely, you may spot a rabbit hole running through the core of the canvas or a dragon-shaped cloud floating through the carbon filled atmosphere. These delightful details stir our hearts and minds, reminding us of our connection to the natural world and the need for respectful coexistence.

Our world is in desperate need of care and compassion. We can no longer afford to simply edge forward. We must leap towards new sustainable pathways by embracing the transformative changes needed to reconnect, reconcile, and regenerate our world.


– Jaime Clifton-Ross, B.A. (Hons.), MMSt, Guest Curator

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