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Lyndsay McKay
is an artist living
on Vancouver Island,
British Columbia.

              Over the past three years I have developed practices and performances of collecting local flora on the remarkable coastal landscape where I live on Vancouver Island, BC. Coming from a 12-year career in nursing, and a wider background working in public health, acute care and end-of-life care, I have retained a strong biological thread in my practice, which compels me to research and immerse myself in the rich ecosystems around me. I am fascinated by the plant, animal, and marine life of the region as it intersects with the porosity of the human body, which I perceive to be ‘learning along the way’ through our senses, our cells, and our ever-adapting microbiome.

              Engaging in acts of foraging has allowed me opportunities to intimately explore what it means to be a body in a predominantly natural environment for an extended period of time. Through field and studio work, I am able to investigate scientific ideas and experiment with space and materiality in unexpected ways. For example, by collecting seaweed and raw clay and developing biomaterials, such as bioplastics, I bring science to life, mitigate negative impacts related to climate change, and design for sustainability and stewardship. Additionally, I seek to dissolve the boundaries between human and other-than-human existences and expose how traces of bodily movement are imprinted. Taking an autoethnographic approach, my research goes beyond self-reflexive, as it refers to the practice of revisiting space through archiving, recording, journaling, creative writing, photography, and sculpture with new materials. Through these practices, ideas of embodiment denote a situation of interconnection and become methodologies used to communicate newly discovered knowledges to an extended, and often associated audience. Themes that develop within my work include memory, trace, identity and indexicality, and in some cases, violence, and trepidation.

            I am interested in the elements of a moment that leave scars on surfaces and foundations. Most recently, ideas of transience and change became enlivening forces for my thesis show, The Space Between (Windsor, Ontario, April 24, 2023). For this work, sections of my own body are cast in plaster and their internal surfaces are sculpted with a mix of foraged clay and seaweed collected from my local geography. Since seaweed varieties vary, so do the colours and textures of the material, producing a tactile map and a visible trail of what I touched. Through work and process, these pieces construct synapses which connect the spaces of my body to the landscapes that inform them. Through transformation, trace and ongoingness, the presence of a human body as it relates to other bodies and spaces begins to take shape. By combining human-centred approaches with the ecopsychology of collected materials, the gallery becomes replete with materials foraged, folded, formed, and cured along the way.  In this way, the casts of my body dually function as containers or hosts for other life, to anthropomorphize the places I visit and to blend myself within them. The works are tightly woven between preservation and transmutation, spilling out from themselves and extending from their represented form. They are a departure from a fixed, singular perspective as they continue to lose, gather, and modulate the materials that enable their creation. I am interested in capturing the essence in the fragile and imperfect. For me, this encapsulates the intricacies of the natural world and the intangible condition of experiences, such as memory and the passing of time, as well as the inescapability of impermanence.

            Lastly, my research builds on my career as a nurse, with all its attendant experiences of embodiment, pain, and interconnectivity. My findings are expanded in creative writing, art installations, figurative sculptures and abstracted assemblages that become visual stories, connecting relationships to space through the fluidity of materials; biomaterials in combination with plaster-cement, cotton vellum sheets, and objects from clinical environments. The 'medicine cup' is an object I employ repetitively throughout my ongoing series of work titled, "Biomorphic Landscapes". In this series, each medicine cup represents an intimate exploration of space and of moments in flux, where experiences within and between are both exclusive and complex. Within these spaces, acts of empathy and embodiment become my tools for visualizing and communicating the relationships I encounter. By recognizing the liminality of space and the often imperceptible, but highly charged gap between objects and bodies, and bodies and bodies, I seek to understand more deeply, how differently our histories and experiences position themselves in relation to each other and inside the spaces we inhabit. More specifically, I am interested in the interconnection of intimacy and care with the incursions and violence of daily life.

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