An Audain Art Museum Special Exhibition


Photo: Joern Rohde

This summer, scarred landscapes are coming to Whistler. From June 10 to Oct. 16, the Audain Art Museum will feature a thought-provoking special exhibition, Edward Burtynsky: The Scarred Earth. One of Canada’s most respected photographers, Burtynsky creates large-scale photographs that show the effects of human activity on the natural world. In particular, his aerial photographs of industry reflect the impact humankind is having on the surface of the planet.

Burtynsky’s aesthetic and interest in the transformation of nature by manufacturing originates from his days working in the auto and mining industries, when he spent time in assembly, frame and production plants. Since many of his photographs depict landscapes that are massive in size, he tries to include an object, or figure, in the image to indicate scale. When viewers locate a recognizable figure in the photos, it’s a shock as the mind calculates the true size of the area. 

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“Many of these works are quite large, usually a minimum of one metre high and two metres wide,” says Darrin Martens, the Gail and Stephen A. Jarislowsky chief curator of the museum. “When you’re looking at these works you become in some ways very immersed in the situation. You are part of that experience of witnessing.”

It is impossible to ignore the ironies and complexities of viewing a massive Burtynsky photograph. Those bearing witness to the remarkable images can’t escape the fact that most of us travelled up the Sea to Sky Highway to Whistler in a vehicle. Most of us carry a cell phone in our pockets. Even the photographs are made possible by using aircraft, fuel, and photographic equipment, which were at one point elements extracted from the earth. Unsettling contradictions exist between the human desire for materials to have a good life and the consequences of resource extraction on the natural world.

Included in the exhibition are several images relevant to the  West  Coast, including: a series of photographs taken around  Fort McMurray, Alta., also known as Canada’s “tar sands”; the Westar Coal Mine of Crow’s Nest Pass, B.C.; and the open-pit Highland Valley Copper mine near Logan Lake, B.C. Although these works may be of particular interest to the regional visitor, they are also relevant in a global context, and are representative of industry around the world.



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To complement the exhibition, two documentary films, Watermark and Manufactured Landscapes, will be screening continually in a video room at the gallery. Through the films, guests will have an opportunity to hear Burtynsky talk about his work.

While you’re visiting the Audain, be sure to allow enough time to visit the phenomenal permanent collection. The museum showcases a history of art from coastal British Columbia, with artworks spanning pre-European contact to the contemporary. Of note are more than 24 Emily Carr paintings, and artworks from 12 different First Nations groups, from the Lower Mainland  to Alaska.

“For people who happen to be in the Village for a time, we also have a whole series of ways we engage our visitors,” says Suzanne Greening, the museum’s executive director. There are seven docent-led tours per week, and Kids Konnect Tours designed to engage youth.

In the fall, return to the Audain Art Museum to experience Sublime Negotiations: The Canadian Alpine Experience (1867-2017), on display from Nov. 11, 2017 to Feb. 12, 2018, to celebrate Canada’s sesquicentennial year. It will feature upwards of 150 artworks created over the past 150 years from various regions around Canada.

For more information on the Audain Art Museum’s special exhibitions and events visit


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