The Sunken Villages Project

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Two paths have converged with this art project to create this website and the art exhibition showing until November 2, 2013 at the Marianne van Silfhout Gallery at St Lawrence College in Brockville, Ontario, Canada.

The first path began in the air in late 2009 when, flying over the St. Lawrence River, I spotted, quite by chance, a rectangular outline in the clear, blue-green water. At first I didn’t quite believe what I thought I was seeing – I had never heard of such a thing as houses, let alone whole communities, under water in Canada and the United States.  A few turns later, I found a road and some more foundations; the entire thing snapped into place with a sidelong glance at the dam in the distance between Cornwall, Ontario, Canada and Massena, New York, USA.

The second path began on the ground in Cornwall in early 2010 when I puckered up my courage and put one of my blue-green images – Downtown Aultsville – in front of someone directly affected by the flooding. I have enough confidence as an artist to know when an image has meaning or carries an emotion; I was worried, however, that it carried too much, that I might be meddling with the sacrosanct, ignorantly plodding into something I did not know or understand.

I need not have worried. While my ignorance was affirmed – I still know too little about this chapter in Canadian and American history – and those affected have reacted, often strongly, to my depiction of what was once their home, the reaction has been an embrace as wide and as honest as we can be as human beings.

This website (and the art exhibition) reflects just a little of this embrace. It is my effort to try to capture and refract back to you – the viewer and listener – a little of what people told me in a sequence of twenty-seven (and counting) incredible interviews. Each interviewee has his or her own page on sunkenvillages.ca with portraits (some even from their youth) and a video clip from their interview. I encourage you to listen closely to their stories, said in their own voices.

They have much to tell us about who we are and where we come from.

If you look closely. If you listen closely. There is a new, third path emerging, where a rich, colourful history is coming alive, animated by our imagination as we begin to understand what others – not unlike ourselves – still live with, or without.