Blueberry bushes slowly grow around a podium made of Vancouver Island hemlock. A poem sits atop the podium waiting to be read. It is noon, and the late Peter Culley’s poem Fruit Dots is being read aloud. Black elastic cords are intricately threaded through the walls, vibrating with tension. This is Silva Part I: “O Horizon,” the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s (NAG) newest exhibition.

Silva is a contemporary art project that follows a thematic path from the microcosms of the forest floor to the quantifying and processing of lumber to the global distribution of forestry products. Within Silva are two exhibitions, “O Horizon” and “Booming Grounds;” a publication, The Mill; and a series of artist talks, tours, readings, and performances.

“O Horizon” will be the first part of the exhibition. The exhibit focuses on the powerful roles that language and culture play in the ways that we understand the natural environment. “O Horizon” is titled after the scientific name for the forest floor. This top layer of soil is made of decomposing organic matter and forms the life support system for trees, spouting plants, fungi, and countless small animals.

Artists featured in “O Horizon” include Peter Culley, Duane Linklater, Gareth Moore, Kika Thorne, and Elias Wakan.

Part I of Silva runs from September 4 through October 31.

Silva is meant to complement the Nanaimo Museum’s new exhibit, A Terrible Beauty: Edward Burtynsky in Dialogue with Emily Carr, which will be featured at the museum from September 4 through November 21. On September 3, the Nanaimo Museum hosted an opening reception for the two new exhibits.

Both exhibits focus on human impact on the natural world. A Terrible Beauty also highlights how nature and industrialization has changed over time.

Emily Carr’s paintings and drawings highlight the early 20th century when industrialized agriculture, resource extraction, and large-scale logging in BC became more popular. Some of her sweeping vistas of sky were views only possible by forest clear-cutting. The selection of Carr’s work at this exhibit is small, but the chance to see Carr’s work in Nanaimo is an exciting and rare opportunity that no one should miss out on.

Edward Burtynsky is an internationally renowned Toronto-based photographer. His images captivate the natural and built environments that reflect the impressive reach of human enterprise and the extraordinary impact of our hubris. The photos featured in this exhibit were taken between 1983 and 2013; they represent his major bodies of work, from his earlier series of homestead photographs from BC to his new project on the subject of water and its fundamental place in the world of ecology.

Despite working over 50 years apart and in different medias, both artists’ masterpieces brilliantly record the changing, industrialized landscape and our place within it.