Visually Speaking: Sacred by Nature

Anna Horsnell

There is a very unique show opening in an equally unique location on September 6. Sacred by Nature is a wonderful combination of photography and what can best be described as fluid silk sculpture by Wolfville artist, Kate McKenna. The show is being hosted by Lightfoot & Wolfville Vineyards in their spacious entrance gallery.

For eight years, McKenna lived in Mexico where her art career began in earnest before she returned home to Nova Scotia. “This exhibit is particularly meaningful,” she smiles, “Not only because of the subject matter, and the focus and inspiration it provided during the winter months of a Covid lockdown, but also since this will be my first opportunity to share my work here in Nova Scotia.”

McKenna’s art begins with her deep reverence for the earth, but it is in how she pays homage and interprets her feelings that her work evolves into something truly special. This current show highlights both her macro photography of Nova Scotia stone and the silk robes she creates from those images. Solid stone is reimagined in a way that allows her to create moving sculpture.

She explains, “When I photograph, I have no particular intention beyond connecting with openness and curiosity. I love the ways that engaging moment to moment opens new worlds and unexpected avenues. I began working with photographic elements to create textile patterns with a desire to communicate and share a nuanced “felt experience” of those moments. There is a saying that “spirit sleeps in stone.” Since ancient times, stone has been sculpted into figures and flowing garments. Choosing selections of photographs, I designed “stone yardage.” My intention was to create a collection of reverential garments, which would communicate and celebrate the sacred spirit of Nova Scotia stone.”

McKenna’s photographs of stone are large and powerful in their own right. They also serve as a means to an end and there is a strong undercurrent between the photographs and robes. She agrees, “I do think that the energy is in their juxtaposition. I am interested, in my creative work, to explore various synergies, between realism and abstraction, solidity and fluidity, exterior and essence, materiality and spirituality. There is a synergy between the intimate communication with the natural world that I discover with my camera and the process of fashioning nature’s fabric into new forms, evoking the sensuality of that experience.”

Hayao Miyazaki mirrors McKenna’s feelings, specifically, saying “I like the idea that we should treasure everything because spirits might exist there…because there is a kind of life in everything.” McKenna continues in her own words, “the belief that we live in a soulful world which is deserving of reverence is, I hope, expressed in the collection and the title of this show.”

Sacred by Nature continues at Lightfoot & Wolfville, 11143 Evangeline Trail, Wolfville, until September 26. Please visit kmckenna.com or email katemckennadesign@gmail.com.

All images courtesy of Kate McKenna.