From Here at the Threshold

Artist Statement

Globalization, commodity accessibility, and humanity’s relationship with nature have been constant themes in my studio practice for some time now. Living in one of the world’s largest megacities continually magnifies for me just how complex and fragile our urban ecosystems have become.

All of the sets for the Threshold photographswere built using materials found, purchased, or borrowed within Mexico City during the SARS-CoV-2 lock downs. The much diminished selection of flora and fauna I’ve had access to this year has provided a glimpse into what parts of nature we deem essential or assign great value to, be it culturally, historically, or otherwise. Included in these tableaus are also the hangers-on; those plants and animals that have found ways to thrive within the humanscapes of today and perhaps suggest what will survive in an increasingly curated world.

This body of work was an opportunity to let my mind wander into a future we can only vaguely hypothesize about, and to ask what fingerprints we might place there. How will the creativity of the human mind effect change, intentionally or not, of future evolution and ecosystems? Which living things will humanity work to preserve and which will slip into history, redefining these photographs as ephemeral images of what has passed.

Artist Biography

Splitting her practice between British Columbia and Mexico City, Whitney Lewis-Smith works primarily with 8x10 dry plate photography and elaborate studio sets. She continues to examine Biophilia, a term coined by renowned psychologist Erich Fromm, describing how humans possess an innate tendency to seek connection with nature and other non human forms of life.

As of 2008, The United Nations stated that more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and the average pre-teen recognizes more video game characters than common wildlife. Drawing on this global shift, Lewis-Smith uses her practice to contemplate the possible evolutionary mutations for humanity and our changing relationship with the natural world.

Lewis-Smith documents what today can easily be amassed in the flesh, highlighting how globalization impacts the way we interact with the world around us. By depicting scenes that will one day become an impossibility, Lewis-Smith asks the viewer to recognize our current time as a passing moment. With a background in scientific fieldwork, her participation in various expeditions and access to museum collections (The Museum of Natural History in Puebla, Mexico, museum of nature, Ottawa) became a catalyst in her ability to create large format tableaus.

Most recently, Whitney made a dramatic transition shifting the majority of her studio work from Mexico City to remote British Columbia, Canada. During this time, she was invited to live and work as artist in residence at Nimmo Bay resort in The Great Bear Rainforest. Amidst this transition she also lost her father. At Nimmo Whitney began exploring the ways in which human beings find connectedness and a sense of home. She also aided in cultural and scientific research with the First Nations guardian program and continues to do so. These ideas were the early beginnings that developed into concepts for this current body of work, The Overview.

Collectors in Canada and abroad include Global Affairs Canada, The Honourable Canadian Prime minister Justin Trudeau’s collection, SUMMA Art Fair Madrid, the Beaverbrook Art Gallery, Maison Simon’s collection, and the Ottawa City’s Public Art collection. Lewis-Smith studied Studio Arts at Concordia University focusing on drawing and sculpture.