Tammy Salzl draws from literature, contemporary culture, and personal ideologies to make tales in the form of paintings, drawings, and intermedia installations. Salzl received her MFA in Painting and Drawing at Concordia University in 2014. Her work has been shown across Canada, and her exhibition Un/Natural is currently on view at Gallery 101 in Ottawa.
Stories make the difficult realities of the world accessible – they drag the darkness into the light. I am a visual storyteller, inspired by those who weave tales with words. I love ancient tales, mythology, folklore, science fiction, and fantasy. Scandinavian folklore was born from a fear of nature. The unknown depths of the fjords, the unscaled mountains, the dark northern forests… Anything strange or unknown was open to speculation of sea monsters, evil spirits, or mighty gods. Ursula K. Le Guin is an incredible writer whose science fiction novels overturn the genre’s typical conventions. Her futuristic or alternative worlds address politics, the natural environment, gender, religion, sexuality, and ethnography. Stories help us make sense of who we are.
2. Weird & wondrous animals
I recently discovered the Maned Wolf: a creature that looks part deer, part wolf and part fox. Most people know what an Okapi or a Narwhal looks like, but have you ever seen a Saiga Antelope, a Panda Ant, or a Bumble Bee Bat? The list goes on and on. Some are so bizarre they look like characters from a Star Wars bar scene. With our planet currently in the midst of its sixth mass extinction of plants and animals (the worst wave of species die-offs since the loss of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago and, unlike past mass extinctions, primarily driven by human activities), I often think about the creatures and plants that have disappeared before we had the chance to discover them.
3. Stop motion films
Since I was a kid eagerly anticipating the return of Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer every holiday season, I have been enthralled by stop motion film. It is a rigorous, crafted art, and its process yields a particular aesthetic. For me it holds a singular magic no digital platform can touch. You see and feel the presence of the artist’s hand. Anu-Laura Tuttelberg is an Estonian artist whose films are poetic tales full of light, magic, and nostalgia. On the Other Side of the Woods / Teisel pool metsa is a short film using clay and puppets, inspired by fairy tales. It was shot with natural light, revealing the visible changes of daylight to emphasize the passing of time. The best ten minutes you’ll have all day.
As someone who grew up reading and loving comic books, I’m not surprised by the ubiquitous onslaught of Hollywood superhero movies currently flooding the theatres. Superheroes are a means of mental escape, of imagining super powers that will negate the truth of our vulnerability. There may be no meta-humans as yet, but we are not without heroic bravery. As Batman says to Superman, “You’re not brave. Men are brave.” (“Men” meaning ‘”humans,” of course…right Hollywood studio writers??)
Case in point: Environmental Defenders. Berta Cáceres was a member of the Lenca indigenous group, the largest in Honduras, and was awarded the Goldman Environmental Prize in 2015 for her opposition to one of Central America’s biggest hydropower projects (which threatened to cut off a vital water source and way of life for hundreds of indigenous Lenca people). Despite years of threats against her life she never stopped fighting for her land and her people. She was murdered in her home on March 3 of this year. On average two people are killed every week defending their land, forests, and waterways against the expansion of large-scale agriculture, dams, mining, logging, and other threats. Four in ten are from indigenous communities who resisted development projects or the encroachment of farms on their territory. There are real live heroes among us.
5. People watching
Nothing fascinates me more than my fellow human creatures. The way we look, move, speak, dress, engage, or isolate ourselves. The way we perform our identities within the public sphere. I can sit for hours where humans gather and simply watch. We are all so different yet fundamentally the same. I make up stories in my mind about their lives and personalities, who they love, what they dream of, what they believe. I see each individual as a unique planet that webs out, reaching others and creating reactions. I imagine webs overlapping and intermixing into a cosmic nexus of humanity, and try to find myself within it. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that we are all connected. Sometimes it’s good to just sit and look and be.
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