Cole Swanson: Among the Drupes (Elegy for a Wasteland)

July 1, 2023 to January 7, 2024
Varley Art Gallery of Markham

Curated by Anik Glaude in collaboration with Aditi Desai, John Abrams, and Niamh O’Laoghaire.

Multispecies artist and scholar Cole Swanson explores the dynamic and vulnerable life-story of the accidental, urban wilderness. For eight months, Swanson built a close relationship with the last remaining groves of staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina) on the West Toronto Rail Path, currently under construction. Through video, material process, and installation art, Swanson honours and cares for the site’s wayward ecology in which native, invasive, and naturalized species survive together amidst the precarity of our times. Engaging with Frederick Varley’s field sketches of sumac, and creating a suite of natural materials from the organic, mineral, and human-made constituents of the site, Swanson demonstrates how art can move us to bear witness, attend to, and form unlikely kinships within our more-than-human communities.

About the Artist

Cole Swanson is a multispecies artist and educator based in Toronto, Ontario. He has exhibited both nationally and internationally, and has participated in artist residencies, guest lectures, and workshops abroad. He is a Professor in the Faculty of Media and Creative Arts, Humber College ITAL, and is currently a PhD student of Environmental Studies at York University. Through a multidisciplinary, collaborative, and materially-focused practice, Swanson explores the complex relationships emerging among species living together in tension at a critical ecological moment.

Associated Programs

Opening Reception
Sunday, July 9, 2 to 4 PM. RSVP today.

Meet the artist; enjoy a curator talk, gallery tour, and a hands-on activity for all ages at the opening reception of the Varley Art Gallery’s 2023 exhibition Among the Drupes (Elegy for a Wasteland), on view in our Collections Gallery until January 7, 2024.

The Staghorn Sumac: Artist Workshop with Cole Swanson and Lynn Short
Sunday, July 30, 2 to 4 PM. Registration required.

Join artist Cole Swanson and horticulturist Lynn Short (Humber College) for an exploration of the multispecies worlds that enliven nearby Toogood Pond. Complementing Swanson’s exhibition Among the Drupes (Elegy for a Wasteland), this workshop will introduce participants to staghorn sumac (Rhus typhina), a generous and native plant species. We will investigate the unique ecology of the sumac grove flourishing only steps away from the Varley Art Gallery of Markham, and will share the many historical and cultural uses of the plant. An exhibition tour, naturalist walk, and hands-on demonstration will explore how staghorn sumac and its companion species support a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem, and will help build personal human-plant relationships based on curiosity, respect, and kinship.

Lunch and Learn: Cole Swanson
Wednesday, September 20, 2023
12:30 to 1:30 PM (EDT)
Presented on Zoom. Registration is required.

Multispecies artist Cole Swanson delves into the dynamic and vulnerable life-story of the accidental, urban wilderness to unearth the wayward ecology in which native, invasive, and naturalized species survive together amidst the precarity of our times.

These virtual monthly artist talks provide our community members with the opportunity to learn about current and future exhibitions, as well as hear about ongoing curatorial research happening at the gallery. This program also supports emerging and established artists by providing them with a forum in which to present their work. We would like to thank the Varley-McKay Art Foundation of Markham for their ongoing support of our Lunch and Learn speaker’s series.

About the Varley Art Gallery of Markham

The Varley Art Gallery of Markham is a vital cultural hub for artists and diverse communities. A municipal gallery, we create critical conversations about Canadian art and society. We inspire local and national audiences to engage with art through outstanding exhibitions and rich public and educational programs relevant to the communities we serve. We support artists from York region and seek to broaden access to the arts for diverse artists and cultural groups. We also share and celebrate the life and work of F.H. Varley, a founding member of the Group of Seven. The Varley Art Gallery is situated on the traditional territories of Indigenous Peoples including the Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe. We are committed to reconciliation, partnership and enhanced understanding.

Varley Art Gallery of Markham
216 Main Street Unionville, Markham, ON, L3R 2H1
905.477.7000 ext. 3261 |

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Facebook | YouTube

Summer hours
Monday (July and August): 12 PM to 4 PM
Tuesday: 12 PM to 4 PM
Wednesday: 12 PM to 4 PM
Thursday: 12 PM to 4 PM
Friday: (June to August) 4 PM to 8 PM
Saturday: 10 AM to 5 PM
Sunday:12 PM to 4 PM

Admission is free. Our venue is accessible, with automatic door openers to enter the building and exhibition spaces. One accessible washroom is available.

For more information or questions, please contact:
Anik Glaude, Curator

Image credits: All images courtesy of the artist.