Lauretta Menendez

A Canadian Paradox

Click HERE to visit the exhibition in the Virtual Saulter Street Stairwell Gallery 

I traveled from the boreal forests of western Ontario to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, and experienced the midlands of Canada as a luxury of space and wide horizons.  The vast grandeur of the prairies and farmlands stretches to the horizon along the Trans Canada Highway–endless waves of intense yellow canola, grasslands, alfalfa, soybeans and wheat interspersed by abandoned buildings, grain towers and small-town depots where the lone cafe is the center for morning socializing.

Rabbit Blanket Lake by Lauretta Menendez (Photograph)

In contrast to the vertically compact and confined spaces of major cities such as Toronto or Vancouver, the prairie vistas draw the eye to skyline. Here the horizon and sky dominate the landscape.  Any other features–trains, crops, grain silos, oil pump jacks, power poles—all become minor elements in the landscape.

However, these “beautiful” spaces carry glaring contradictions in the form of resource extraction–gold mining, crude oil pumping and transport, clear cut mountains for the paper mills.  All environmentally damage these areas and in the long run add to the global carbon dioxide burden.  In spite of the fact that Canada needs to reduce its economic dependence on fossil fuels, I believe that it is difficult for urban populations to understand the precarious situation of midland farmers and communities that depend on production from their oil wells, forests, canola and alfalfa fields.  I believe there is a need to understand this Canadian cultural divide.  So, this series includes images of gold mine head frames, paper mills, logging trucks, oil pump jacks and oil transport.

Overall, the photographs that resulted from this ongoing project stress the horizontal and intend to convey to the viewer the oceanic feeling of the vast magnificence of the Canadian midlands as well as the incongruity that resource extraction plays in altering the landscape and the environment.

About the Artist

Ms. Menendez is a Toronto-based photographer, specializing in large format images that address Canadian urban and rural themes.  She is a still photographer and creative developer for Andolee Company.  Her current project is a documentary series on food security in the GTA.