ROW: Reflections on Water is a thematic exhibition juxtaposing artifacts from the Touchstones Nelson permanent collection with works of art from contemporary artists in the region. Through a variety of media, ROW creates narratives that investigate the symbolic, mythic and conceptual metaphors we associate with water. 

2009 Sep 12 – 2009 Nov 22

ROW: Reflections on Water

Julie Castonguay, Boukje Elzinga, Patrick Field, Marilyn James, Tanya Pixie Johnson, Destanne Norris, Karen Rice, Nancy Rosenblum

Curated by Deb Thompson

ROW is an installation comprised of artifacts from the Touchstones Nelson Permanent Collection and works of art by nine contemporary artists. The art and objects chosen for this exhibition were carefully selected to play parts in an unfolding drama that explores ideas such as renewal, initiation, the womb, life energy and the unconscious. These symbolic motifs are paired and layered much the way they would be in a medieval allegory, in hopes of building meaning beyond their literal ones.

ROW came about like a river, through numerous confluences that included sorting through artist’s proposals; shaking the bushes for artists making work that fit the curatorial concept; surveying the permanent collection for artifacts that further supported narratives on water and symbolism and manufacturing synchronistic liaisons among all these elements. As often happens, the initial challenges to realizing ROW provided a container for its ultimate reemergence onto new ground (or waters in this case) by expanding the possibilities of the exhibition. In the end, a wide and thoughtful stream of consciousness carries the exhibition forward to greet the viewer. ROW does not claim to give shape to all the issues and narratives on water, only to be a part of a continuing discourse on water as it relates to our sense of place and belonging here on this watery planet.

Touchstones Nelson is remarkably positioned to take advantage of having both contemporary art gallery space and access to artifact and archival collections to produce exhibitions that integrate and explore the relationship between contemporary art and material culture. Traditional methodologies encouraged the placement of historical collections in a chronological and/or culturally codified frameworks and isms. What we are starting to see now in various museums and galleries in Europe and Canada is a non-chronological approach to presenting art and artifacts. The new Art Gallery of Ontario has sprung forth with many engaging combinations, for example Betty Goodwin’s (1923-2008) Falling Figure (1965), hangs beside a small Inuit sculpture of a Shaman in Flight c. 1500 – a time span of 500 years and vastly different cultural contexts. In viewing this pairing, my experience of both was expanded and made more memorable. While artistic merit must always remain a priority, this contemporary approach allows the viewer to experience artistic and cultural expressions through a thematic lens rather than a chronological one. It might be argued that this move away from the traditional presentation of historical context and isms in art is a move towards a re-engagement with history in a way that is more inclusive, more universal and thus has as broader audience. In a global culture this might be both an interpretive innovation and a necessity

Didactic Materials

Reflections on Water: Stories about Water Told by Artists, by R.W. Sandford
Artist Statements

Boukje Elzinga

Boukje, who works from her studio in the Kootenays, in Hills, B.C. was born in the Netherlands, grew up on a dairy farm in southern Ontario and had a long career as a nurse. With the support of her partner, Brian, she obtained a B.Sc. from the University of Guelph and a BFA from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design. She has taught figure drawing, oil painting, and sculpting and art history in the region for many years

Patrick Field

Pat Field is a self taught sculptor who has worked in stone, bronze and wood for over 30 years. Pat views all artists as both natural and cultural scientists who should be critically engaged in transforming culture to help shape a sustainable future for all creatures on planet earth. This requires collaboration and compromise, a foreign concept to most artists and scientists. His personal and collaborative works are in permanent private and corporate collections around the globe. Monumental pieces can be viewed in Penticton BC.

Marilyn James

Marilyn James works part time for Selkirk College as the Aboriginal Advisor. She has developed indigenized curriculum sets for local school districts and featured on line in a partnership with the school. Marilyn sits on the boards and committees dedicated to community services and education. Marilyn holds a Bachelor of Arts Degree from Evergreen State College and a Masters of Education from Simon Fraser University. Marilyn James is the appointed spokesperson of Sinixt Nation and a Board member for Sinixt Nation Society. Marilyn is a gifted story teller and writer. She is also an activist.

Tanya Pixie Johnson

Tanya Pixie Johnson was born in Kenya during a political riot. She grew up in Cape Town, South Africa, her childhood being a curious dialogue between apartheid horrors, art and dance classes and happy family moments. She received her honours degree in Fine Art from the University of Cape Town. After traveling the world, being an activist punk and roving artist in whatever medium was at hand, she started a family and is based in the Slocan Valley and part time in Cape Town.

Destanne Norris

Destanne Norris recently graduated with her MFA degree from the University of Tasmania in Australia. Her thesis entitled, painted pools: a lens into subjectivity, explored the notion of water as a metaphor for life. Landscape and place, embodiment, Romanticism, alchemy, and metaphor and symbols in material culture are Destanne’s research interests.
Destanne exhibited her work in Tasmania and had paintings curated into a group exhibition on self-portraiture in Contemporary Painting Practice. Previous to her overseas post-graduate studies, Destanne lived in the Rocky Mountains where she pursued her landscape-based oil painting practice and partook in a number of art-in-residence programs. She exhibited her work in solo and group shows in commercial and public galleries. As well she had a painting selected for a touring exhibition organized by the Alberta Society of Artists and the Edmonton Art Gallery. Destanne’s paintings can be found in private and corporate collections, which include the Consulate General of Japan and the Alberta Foundation for the Arts. Destanne currently lives in Vernon, BC.

Karen Rice

Karen Rice grew up in Eastern Washington, and received her MFA from the University of Montana. Her work has been featured twice in the publication New American Paintings and can be found in several public collections including the Eiteljorg Museum and the Missoula Art Museum. She currently resides in Missoula, Montana.

Nancy Rosenblum

Nancy Rosenblum grew up in the suburbs of Los Angeles and developed an interest in photography and filmmaking from the early age of seven. She often borrowed her dad’s Bell and Howell 8mm camera and would splice together short movies to show to friends and family. Her taking of still photos has never stopped nor has her video filmmaking. She has a Masters of Fine Art from California Institute of the Arts in Valencia, California. Her still photography has been shown in galleries throughout Los Angeles, her filmmaking and editing work on television and in theaters both throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Julie Castonguay

Julie Castonguay, originally from the city of Québec, holds a Bachelor of Science in Forestry from Laval University. In 2002, she temporally suspended her work as professional forester to study photography at NSCAD University where she graduated in 2006 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Castonguay’s first solo photography exhibits were held in 2005 in Nelson, BC and Halifax, NS. She was awarded a special mention at the 2005 Banff Mountain Photography Competition. Since 2006 Castonguay has had numerous local exhibitions. Currently, she resides in Nelson, British Columbia, where she balances her forestry career and her photography, continually exploring and integrating her connection to nature.

Hours & Locations

The Nelson Museum is located in beautiful downtown Nelson, British Columbia.


Exhibitions, programs, and events to help plan your visit.