Edging Forward Exhibit Catalogue

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EDGING FORWARD Reconnection, Reconciliation, Regeneration

A multi-me dia proje c t by


On the cover: Carbon Thoughts Nancyanne Cowell 2016 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 48” x 36”


Reconnection, Reconciliation, Regeneration ANN DALE & NANCYANNE COWELL

This digital catalogue is published by Fernweh Press on the occasion of the art exhibit Edging Forward: Reconnection, Reconciliation, Regeneration at The Robert Bateman Centre in Victoria, British Columbia. Exploring love, science and compassion for a more sustainable world, visionary artist Nancyanne Cowell responded in the context of ongoing dialogues and writings with author Ann Dale. The catalogue features reproductions of the paintings and literary interpretations of the curator of the exhibition; Jaime Clifton-Ross. Edging Forward is a celebration of art, sustainability and the future of humanity and is a creative multi-media legacy.

https://edgingforward.wordpress.com/ www.nancyannecowell.ca All rights to the photographs remain with the artist.

Views of Edging Forward: Reconnection, Reconciliation, Regeneration exhibit at The Robert Bateman Centre.

‌there is enough science, enough information to act now on sustainable development, so what is preventing us from changing?

— Ann Dale



e have enough knowledge,

science, and innovation to act now on sustainable community development, so what is holding us back? Why can’t we leap back from the edge onto new sustainable pathways? After realizing that something was missing in conversations on sustainable community development, Ann Dale and Nancyanne Cowell came together to explore some of the missing threads: love, compassion, and the power of storytelling. Art and science are traditionally separate disciplines, with the former focused on expression and creativity and the latter centered on the pursuit of data and discovery. However, given the unprecedented nature and scale of issues our world is facing, they decided that bridging the two disciplines would tell a more compelling story. Edging Forward: Reconnection, Reconciliation, Regeneration is an art and literary project that illuminates the power of collaboration. As the social scientist

and artist explore what is holding us back, they bring new perspectives to the conversation about how to leap towards a more sustainable world. Dale’s latest manuscript, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development, weaves together over 15 years of research on sustainable communities into a compelling story about how we can no longer merely edge forward, rather we must leap forward. She frames her research and discovery through a literary journey that also shares deeply personal and poetic life experiences. Throughout each chapter, she explores our relationships to one another, to other species, and to our planet. She contemplates how a single story of growth has come to dominate our narratives and why we struggle to embrace diversity and difference. By blending storytelling with science, Dale uncovers how the power of our narratives can not only lead us towards positive social change but also a more resilient and empathetic world.

Responding to the core ideas in Dale’s manuscript, Nancyanne Cowell created large scale oil mixedmedia paintings to illuminate each chapter theme. Her luminous works channel the dramatic and often turbulent landscapes of English Romantic painter, Joseph Turner. Chromatic strokes of blues, greens, and magentas alternate from thick to thin, swirling horizontally and vertically across the foreground. Teeming with light and motion, Cowell’s powerful yet sensuous paintings also echo the style and techniques pioneered by the Impressionists, including Claude Monet. Her gestural brushwork not only builds structure and texture across large surface areas, but also manifests her inner voice and emotions. Notably, her unique approach to composition channels the vitality of nature, thereby offering new perspectives. Made up of two unified canvases, each painting flips the traditional landscape on its end and adopts the orientation of a portrait, eliciting a visceral connection with the human body. The merging of two canvases, magnified by sweeping brushstrokes, depicts the earth’s crust.

Architecturally, this feature also signifies the interconnection between our built and natural environments. Subtle details of nature are framed by rustling wind and crashing waves, blending the abstract with the figurative. If you look closely, you may spot a rabbit hole running through the core of the canvas or a dragon-shaped cloud floating through the carbon filled atmosphere. These delightful details stir our hearts and minds, reminding us of our connection to the natural world and the need for respectful coexistence. Our world is in desperate need of care and compassion. We can no longer afford to simply edge forward. We must leap towards new sustainable pathways by embracing the transformative changes needed to reconnect, reconcile, and regenerate our world. Jaime Clifton-Ross B.A. (Hons.), MMSt, Curator

EDGING FORWARD Achieving Sustainable Community Development Ann Dale 2018


his book is about the power of stories, that shape our development and influence our ability to act now on climate change. Not exactly a sequel to her previous book, At the Edge, it is an evocative call for immediate action to move from edging forward to leaping onto new, sustainable pathways. Edging Forward is supported by one of the richest online living libraries of over 15 years of research from her Canada Research Chair at www.edgingforward.wordpress.com. Once again, Dale draws upon both the personal and the professional, to talk about her own journey in reconciliation, reconnection and the power of relationships as the most important pathway for transforming human development.



y responding to chapter themes, legends, and fairy tales, I draw on relationships and interconnections between our built environment and the natural world. Water —as a symbol of renewal, cleansing, and emotional energy; flows throughout the painting series. It is the source of all life, representing both life and death existing in the same place. Making up most of the Earth and most of our bodies, water is a conduit between and amongst all species, communities and the biosphere. Painting beyond the conventional boundaries of the traditional 'landscape', my brushes found moments of emotion and wonder expressing these mysteries. These paintings are an offering that we may find possibility — towards a fresh understanding of being. With our planet deeply seeking care, perhaps this exhibition will stir both our hearts and minds to find meaning and strengthen our connection with the world around us.

— Nancyanne Cowell, Edging Forward Art Collection



his book is about human stories and how they shape and influence our relationships to one another, to other species, and to the planet—the power of our narratives to describe who and what is included or excluded, whether or not we are doomed to be the Lorax searching for the last Truffula tree. Our stories shape our beliefs about possibilities for the future and are central to the human condition. The myths, fables, and metaphors of our childhood tales give us embedded and unconscious archetypes of good and evil, and indeed, leaders often evoke these primal archetypes in their attempts to persuade us that their story is the only real one. (p. 1) — Ann Dale, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development

CA RBON THOUGHTS Nancyanne Cowell 2016 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 48” X 36”


The Loss of the Dragons Unknown Unknowns


his beginning chapter is about how the loss of magic and mystery in our stories, the “soft stuff,� has influenced our capacity to change. It is hard for a pointy-headed academic, particularly in the social sciences, to discuss emotions. We so often have to defend ourselves from the rigour and the supposed greater validity (read certainty and proof) of the natural sciences versus the social sciences, the hard sciences over the soft. It is this kind of polarizing story that keeps us mired in repeating the same old, same old. Regardless, I believe that the chief engine of change is understanding how the stories that inform our conversations and our culture have a profound influence on our future and the future of the planet. Cultural meanings are transmitted through our stories; therefore, listening to multiple stories amplified across diverse media and advertising platforms is key to leaping rather than edging forward toward the transformative changes we now need in Canada and the world. (p. 17) — Ann Dale, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development

QUILL OF HOPE Nancyanne Cowell 2015 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 36” X 36”


Going Down the Wrong Rabbit Hole The Climate Imperative


hat lessons can we learn from this long-term denial of evidence to avoid staying down wrong rabbit holes too long in the future? There are complex vested interests in favour of maintaining the status quo, despite the scientific evidence, the augmenting consensus from civil society that we need to change, and the increasing sophistication of our use of Internet communication technologies (ICTs). These technologies are capable of accelerating the speed of knowledge take-up, of connecting diverse groups of people in novel ways and passing information on complex social issues more rapidly. What are some of the barriers that prevent us from quickly leaving dysfunctional rabbit holes? How can we accelerate the speed of the tipping points we are now seeing on climate change? (pp. 35-36) — Ann Dale, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development

S HA DES OF W ONDERLA ND Nancyanne Cowell 2014-2017 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 60” X 36”


Beauty and the Beast The Biodiversity Imperative


ecause all of our current growth has been at the expense of persistent and continual ecological decline, the bigger we “grow,” the less space we leave for other creatures. Habitats become more fragmented, giving other species less and less freedom. And the bigger we “grow” through industrial globalization with economic systems no longer connected to place, to communities, the more homogenized our societies are becoming. (p. 46) — Ann Dale, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development

S A ME S OULS Nancyanne Cowell 2015 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 36” X 36”

CHAPTER 4 Three Little Pigs The Personal Imperative


he way we design our neighbourhoods and our cities shapes our habits, affects our health, and our relationships to one another and to our sense of place. If you don’t know a place, you can’t love it, and you won’t save it. This applies equally to biodiversity; if you have no opportunity to see flora and fauna, to experience wilderness, to feel the wind rustling through the trees, the sun on your face, or watch creatures in a stream. We can redesign our built environment to reintegrate nature and biodiversity into our lived urban experiences. (p. 51) — Ann Dale, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development

FUS ING LOV E Nancyanne Cowell 2015-2017 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 60” X 36”


Charlotte’s Web Sustainable Community Development


or me, a web pictorially shows the meaning of community, but more importantly, the meaning of being in community. Isn’t a community simply about relationships, not just with our own, but also with other species? They are about connections, both place-based and virtual. Since we humans are biologically driven to seek connection and have needs for bonding and social capital connections, the design and redesign of the physical space of our neighbourhoods and our cities is vital for enabling diverse relationships to occur. And if we value and wish to continue to share our space with other species, we need to take into account their needs for space and place, as well as our own. (p. 71) — Ann Dale, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development

A HEA RT’S KNOW LEDGE Nancyanne Cowell 2015-2017 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 60” X 36”


The Three Trolls Under the Bridge Barriers to Change


he definition of human wellbeing is at the heart of the matter. The relevance of economic performance is that it must be viewed as a means to an end, and that the market is an imperfect allocation mechanism. That end is neither the consumption of beef burgers, nor the accumulation of television sets, nor the control of inflation rates, but rather the welfare of human societies. Some argue that economic performance matters only insofar as it makes people happier. A broader concept of wellbeing requires a more complex and nuanced analysis, provided through a recent burst of research into what factors support happiness and how this relates to economic growth, as well as broadened mainstream measures of what constitutes progress beyond the GDP. (p. 93) — Ann Dale, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development

ECOS CA PE OF THE S OUL Nancyanne Cowell 2013-2017 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 60” X 36”


Knights of the Round Table Moving from Government to Governance


more engaged, connected Canadian government that’s smarter about what it does, connected and communicating with its citizens through diverse channels, using big data to enhance civic literacy, is a better alternative to the use of referenda, competing trends toward authoritarianism, illiteracy, neglect of facts and evidence, and growing public distrust. Let’s start with a House of Commons transformed to lead experiential and conversational public spaces, reintroducing civil discourse and literacy. We all need to learn our paths forward as we collectively continue to search for solutions to climate-change adaptation and mitigation, a carbon-neutral economy, and become a world leader in sustainable community development— sustainability for all, not some. (p. 108) — Ann Dale, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development

THEIR PERCUS S IV E HEA RTBEA TS Nancyanne Cowell 2014-2017 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 60” X 36”


The Wizard of Oz Reconciliations, (Re)connection, Regeneration


hroughout this story is embedded the importance of storytelling, how a story’s frame can either empower or disempower us in our belief that we can make a difference in our own lives, in our communities, to become more sustainable. We are biologically driven social animals, and storytelling is a social act in and of itself through which we share cultural meaning and purpose. (p. 115) — Ann Dale, Edging Forward: Achieving Sustainable Community Development

BETW EEN TOMORROW Nancyanne Cowell 2015-2016 Oil-mixed media on two canvases 60” X 36”

A NN DA LE Author


nn Dale is an award-winning Professor in the School of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University. With extensive knowledge in sustainability and governance, she hopes to make a difference with her research for community vitality. As a former executive in the federal government and a founder of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy, she brings a wealth of practical and theoretical knowledge to her writing. She has written widely on sustainable community development and has received national and international recognition for her research. She has won several awards, including her university’s first Canada Research Chair in sustainable community development, is a Trudeau Fellow (2004), and a Fellow of the World Academy of Art and Sciences. Dale’s book, At the Edge: Sustainable Development in the 21st Century, received the 2001 Policy Research Initiative Award for Outstanding Research Contribution to Public Policy. More recently, she was awarded the 2013 Molson Prize for the Social Sciences by the Canada Council for the Arts, and was a recipient of the 2016 Canada’s Most Powerful Women, Top 100. She presently leads MC3 2.0: Meeting the Climate Change Challenge, a major climate change adaptation and mitigation research project in British Columbia. She is also active in the Canadian environmental movement, the founder and chair of the National Environmental Treasure (the NET), and is the co-chair of Women for Nature, a Nature Canada initiative.


searched for different ways of connecting and (re)connecting through my teaching and stayed open to the void, for trying to shut it down ensures it remains at the edges of your life. But I didn’t just survive the void, I began to thrive. How? By reframing my son’s loss and by staying open in the moment, not trying to shut down the pain. I actively reframed my loss from what I had lost to what I had—the love we shared, the respect, the adult friendship, and the privilege of having raised a son I both loved and liked. The intense physical longing for him began to lessen, and by staying open to life I believe our love manifested in new ways. We (re)connected in my heart. (p.137) — Ann Dale



ancyanne Cowell, BFA (Hon) (Distinct), MBA, LFC is a Canadian artist, born in Ottawa, Ontario, and lives on Vancouver Island. From an early age, Cowell began painting our relationship with nature in the Canadian landscape. Embracing sensual, spilling light, her AbstractImpressionist paintings straddle the built and natural worlds we live in. With sweeping gestures and energetic passages, Cowell’s powerful and luminous paintings emphasize how our existence is inherently linked to nature. Her work ultimately illuminates the beauty of this relationship. She earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Honours and was granted the Award of Distinction for painting from the University of Victoria. Cowell is recognized as an elected member of the Federation of Canadian Artists. She also earned a Master’s Degree in Business Administration, with studies in Environmental Philosophy, which deepened Cowell’s understanding of civilization and art making. A series of her paintings have been published, exploring how love, science, and compassion can build a more sustainable world. In addition, the series was granted cultural interpretation through the Robert Bateman Centre. Other artwork is held in private and corporate collections.

If love was a bird. Our hearts would mutate. A mutation of embrace.

Nancyanne Cowell

Exhibit curated and catalogue designed by Jaime Clifton-Ross

Published by Fernweh Press Copyright 2017

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