Esker Foundation Contemporary Art Gallery
Mia Feuer is interested in the post-natural landscape, visible sites where human interaction – be it personal, social, political, or financial – has altered or is in the process of rapidly changing the land, and thus our relationship to it. Her work makes connections between our intense material dependency and the accelerated environmental impact this creates. Although she does not consider herself an activist, she is propelled by a genuine sense of compassion, fueling a commitment to engage with damaged, marginalized, or threatened places.
A turning point for Feuer came at a graduate critique of her work in 2009, when a fellow student asked a simple question: “How can you criticize the cycle of oil production and consumption if your work is entirely made out of petroleum products?” The proverbial light bulb went on, and what resulted was not a change in her material choices, but in the depth she went to try to understand the politics, economies, production, and environmental legacies that her choices were actively contributing to. The resulting sculptural works are characterized by an innovative, informed, and critical approach to material.
To write about Feuer’s work is also a little like writing a travel log; date, location, and experience all being important markers for the direction each work will take. However, it is ultimately the combined experience of all her travels that finishes each piece and, subsequently, it is the holistic knowledge that these places are linked that gives the work its political and environmental thrust. Unprecedented loss of land due to pollution, change in weather patterns, extreme salt water erosion, or toxic environments have all guided the artist’s compass. Recent travels include: the Suez Canal in Egypt, the West Bank, the abandoned Soviet coal mining town of Pyramiden, the Arctic coast, reclamations sites in the Athabasca Oil Sands, or, most recently, the southernmost bayous of Louisiana in the communities of Pointe au Chien and Isle de Jean Charles Biloxi-Chitimacha-Choctaw Indian tribes. The vocabulary of all of her sculptures comes out of this aggregated travel log, each entry adding to the undeniable truth that we are all geopolitically and ecologically enmeshed.
The resulting installations and sculptural works are dense, massive, and frighteningly bleak prophecies. Collapsed Soviet coalmines find common ground with bombed out buildings in the Suez Canal; trees feathered and tarred in the Athabasca Oil Sands sail alongside crystal blue glacial tongues of the Arctic Circle. Synthetic chandeliers of industrial waste mix and float among the black wings of ravens, a sky that pours down stinking pitch, an inky rink at the end of the world. Feuer stands at the centre of the storm, creating brilliant and ambitious work that calls attention to these damaged sites, but also surprisingly finds beauty and hope amidst the crushing mess. While the tempest of political upheaval and economic growth rages on, the legacy of waste that washes away our shores, tangles in our nets, and stains our landscape is fuel for Mia Feuer’s fire.