Marlene Creates

Between the Earth and the Firmament, Blast Hole Pond Road, Newfoundland 2020

June 4 - July 3, 2021


"My artwork is where the inside (my thoughts) and the outside (my surroundings) meet. In the patch of boreal forest where I live and work, both my daily activities and my artistic endeavours are profoundly physical and involve all my senses.

The drawings in these assemblages are not based on visual observation. They are frottages (rubbings) I made around myself while lying on the paper — the merest membrane between myself and the land. Wherever I lie down outside, I’m in what’s known as “the boundary layer” — the thin layer of air between the surface of the ground and the atmosphere. The drawings could be seen as a simple measurement of my humanness in relation to this terrain.

The photographs represent the visual dimensions of what was beneath me — such as the vegetation or the snow — and what I saw overhead while lying in place.

The hand-written texts in each work are from my field notes. They refer to some of the phenomena that were present. But most of what exists is imperceptible to the human eye: under the vegetation that I’m lying on are countless microscopic organisms as well as enormous geological formations; and overhead, beyond the tree canopy, there is even more matter in the immensity of the celestial sphere.

Everything in the cosmos and everything on Earth — every leaf, every stone, every drop of water, and every creature — is the result of the 14-billion-year history of the constantly changing universe, from which we’re borrowing the atoms in our sensing bodies."

Marlene Creates, 2020


The artist gratefully acknowledges support from ArtsNL.


Paul Petro Contemporary Art began its representation of Marlene Creates in 2013 and that year gave her a concise thirty-year survey in conjunction with the CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto. The exhibition won the CONTACT BMW Exhibition Prize, a juried award. Out of this exhibition we then placed six of Marlene’s ground-breaking Sleeping Places photographs with the National Gallery of Canada (2014).

In 2015, Susan Gibson Garvey, guest curator at Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, NS, and Andrea Kunard, photography curator at the National Gallery of Canada, began preparations for a forty-year career retrospective of Creates’ work. Under their direction they successfully applied for a MAP grant (2016) and established a touring exhibition 2017- 2020 that travelled to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Frederictton, NB, Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax, NS, Confederation Art Centre Gallery, Charlottetown, PEI, Carlteton University Art Gallery, Ottawa, ON, and The Rooms Provincial Art Gallery, St John’s, NFLD. The exhibition was accompanied by a catalogue, Marlene Creates: Places, Paths, and Pauses 204 pages, hardcover, printed in French and English editions.

In 2019 Marlene Creates received a Governor General’s Award in Visual and Media Arts for her lifetime artistic achievement.

Creates’ work can be found in the permanent collections of public galleries and universities across Canada, as well as many private collections.


MARLENE CREATES lives and works in Portugal Cove, Newfoundland & Labrador. For almost 40 years her work has been an exploration of the relationship between human experience and the land, and the impact they have on each other. Since 2002 her principal artistic venture has been to closely observe and work with the 6 acres of boreal forest where she lives.

Since the mid-1970s, her work has been presented in over 350 solo and Group exhibitions and screenings across Canada (including several nationally touring solo exhibitions) and in Austria, China, Denmark, England, France, India, Ireland, Korea, Scotland, and USA. Since 2005 she has held over 40 site-specific, multidisciplinary events in the patch of boreal forest where she lives, called The Boreal Poetry Garden. In September 2017, a touring retrospective of over 35 years of her work – Places, Paths, and Pauses – will open at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton NB.

Her work has been commissioned by the Art Gallery of Memorial University, Sun Life Assurance Company, Mount Saint Vincent University Art Gallery, Gallery 101, Art Gallery of Hamilton, Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Health Care Corporation of St. John’s, Edmonton Art Gallery, and the Workers Arts & Heritage Centre in Hamilton.

She has been invited to participate in residencies by the Art Gallery of Algoma, Southern Alberta Art Gallery, Boréal Multimédia, Est-Nord-Est (Saint-Jean-Port-Joli), Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (Yukon), W(here) Festival (Pictou County, NS), Full Tilt Creative Centre (McIvers, NL), University of British Columbia Okanagan, rare Charitable Research Reserve (Cambridge, ON), and 4elements Living Arts (Manitoulin Island, ON).

She has been the curator of several exhibitions, worked in artist-run centres (SAW in Ottawa and Eastern Edge in St. John’s), and taught visual arts at Algonquin College (1975-82), the University of Ottawa (1982-85), and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design (1998). She was a director of the Photography Program at the Banff Centre for the Arts (1991) and an invited academic visitor for the Art, Space + Nature MFA at the Edinburgh College of Art (2015). She has also led multidisciplinary place-based art projects with over 2,000 school children in Newfoundland.

She has presented over 200 guest lectures at institutions and conferences in Canada, Chile, Italy, UK, and USA, including the Glasgow School of Art, the University of Oxford, the University of Kent at Canterbury, and the Universities of Turin, Venice and Siena. In 2008 she was the keynote presenter at the symposium Art, Rural Life and Environmental Concern at the University of the West of England in Bristol, and in 2012 she was a plenary speaker at the biennial conference Space + Memory = Place of the Association for Literature, Environment, and Culture in Canada.

Earlier awards include the Artist of the Year Award from the Newfoundland & Labrador Arts Council (1996), the CARFAC National Visual Arts Advocate Award (2009), the VANL-CARFAC Long Haul Award for Excellence in the Visual Arts (2009) "which recognizes a substantial contribution to the visual culture of Newfoundland and Labrador by a senior artist," and the Grand Jury Award at the Yosemite International Film Festival (2014). She was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2001.