journeys

A Fleet of Boats

fieldwork - joan scaglione - land art

The boats of Ribs of Sky are about journeys. When I made them in Saskatchewan I was thinking about many kinds of journeys. I saw in my mind’s eye ancient fleets of boats piloted by a highly experienced navigator computing the wind, waves, and sky in her mind as she searched the vast distances for new land. I saw my boats moving through imaginative space navigating metaphors of the psyche. I felt inspired by the French voyageurs traversing waterways across Canada to Saskatchewan. To connect with that history more tangibly, I invited forty-five members of the community to portage my 18 boats from the lake behind the MacKenzie Art Gallery in Regina into its docking area on a minus thirty day.  There they would acclimatize to the gallery space. In the gallery several boats were hung from the twenty-foot ceiling flying in one direction, while the remaining fleet moved across the gallery floor in another. This hand-made fleet travelled from Saskatchewan to Kingston finding its way onto the fields of Maberly at the fieldwork site in September 2012.

In the late summer, fall, winter, and early spring, the boats sprawled across the earth.  Each vessel was altered by the changing seasonal conditions. The boats became ledges for the praying mantis chrysalis in the warm weather. Wind patterns of snow waves rippled away from each vessel in the winter months. Screws popped, slats pulled away, but they held together. Reciprocally, the land was marked and transformed by the fleets’ presence. The land recorded the weight and discoloration of the boat impressions on the earth. Those who viewed them recorded in memory this fleet moving across the field.
The journey of the boats came to a material conclusion at fieldwork this May. Initially fashioned from steamed cedar in my yard back in Saskatchewan, the sixteen remaining dried and mottled frames were dismantled on a glorious Ontario day. My friend wielded his saw that sliced each boat into several parts. But when he sliced the largest boat up the middle, two friends and I witnessed a profound moment of mystery in seeing the boat’s ribs being torn open, gaping, like a wound. It has been a journey of beginnings and endings. The vessels have revealed different metaphors for different people.

- Joan Scaglione

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