Installation With Video
'Someplace Beautiful' is a video installation designed for and originally presented in the Closet Gallery in Calgary, Alberta around the two-year mark of the COVID-19 pandemic. In dark times, art can often serve to bring joy or at least a brief respite to the people who view it. Someplace Beautiful was created in the spirit of peace, healing, and hope in a time when little of any of those things seem to be easily found. A small room, floor spread with blankets and pillows, inviting the viewer to sit down for a moment and rest. The walls are covered in the projection of a waterfall in early spring, the air full of the sound of running water, gentle music, and the faint smell of evergreen trees. There is a growing body of scientific research into the health and psychological benefits of beauty in our surroundings, and the good that we do ourselves by spending time in nature. I think that now more than ever we need to take care of ourselves and seek out the things that make life easier to handle, so I invite you to pause for a moment in this space, relax and find some peace. Let go of your worries for a moment, and breathe.
Walking into the gallery space, you hear the sound of running water. Not the roar of a great falls, but the smaller sound of a shallow river making its way over rocks. In front of you is projected the image of a small waterfall, tumbling over a rock face to the calmer pool at its base. The image is across to the walls on either side, letting you take in not just the water but the reddish cliffs on either side, the way the evergreen trees have shaken off the snow and begun to seem ready for spring. Under the rushing of the river is a simple melody in a major key, not leading anywhere in particular but keeping the time. Across the floor are strewn pillows and soft blankets, waiting for you to settle down and enjoy the space for a while. Though the trees are a digital projection, the environment still smells faintly of a forest. It is an imitation of nature, but still carries the same sense of peace and calm as the real thing.
I once read that the trickiest curse that can be placed on someone is 'may you live in interesting times'. We certainly live in interesting times, as of installing this work. We live in a world in a state of constant flux, chaos, and stress. I don't have the emotional strength at the moment to try to create the kind of art that will tackle serious subjects and change the world through messages of progress and fighting the good fight. I don't have much of the good fight in me right now. Instead, I have chosen to create a work that reminds me of why I once loved to create, and which treats art as an act of self-care. This installation is not what the world needs right now, rather it is what I need right now. I doubt that I'm the only person who needs it.
Research has shown that the development of vacant lots into small urban green spaces and even the planting of roadside trees in or near low-income neighbourhoods results in significant reductions of violent crime, and residents report feeling safer going about their days , even absent the gentrification-related trends that usually result in both green space development and reduced violent crime but at the cost of displacement of existing residents. In studies conducted in hospitals, areas where patients' surroundings are aesthetically pleasing and contain decorative greenery report mental health patients recovering 14% faster and general non-operative patients recovering 21% faster. Patients experiencing acute mental health distress were also found to be significantly less likely to physically or verbally assault medical staff, and all patients required less pain relief . Just looking at photographs and paintings of natural imagery results in significantly decreased stress, fear and anxiety . There is a large body of evidence that we are happier and healthier when we are able to surround ourselves with nature, even the imitation of it. We are better to one another, we are more content with ourselves and our work and our surroundings, we are more able to thrive.
In creating 'Someplace Beautiful', I hope that I am able to bring to my audience a bit of what I think we all need right now. We cannot all go run off into the woods for a few days to recharge our emotional batteries. There isn't the time, travel isn't particularly safe, there are things that need doing. Instead, this installation is meant to serve as a microdose of natural beauty inside the manmade environment. A chance to relax, take a deep breath, and shake off what causes us worry and grief. If I cannot give you the means to go to someplace in nature that will give you this, I can instead do my best to bring the experience of that place to you.
Now wherever you are, whether in the installation space or reading this as documentation a long time after the fact: pause. Take a deep breath. Think of your own beautiful place, your river or lake or forest. Take for yourself a moment of peace, I promise you have the time.
 Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "Reduce crime and gun violence and stabilize neighborhoods: A randomized controlled study: As much as a 29 percent reduction in gun violence in poor neighborhoods could translate into hundreds of fewer shootings every year for cities affected by blighted spaces." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 26 February 2018. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/02/180226152718.htm>.
 Lawson, Bryan, and Michael Phiri. 2013, The Architectural Healthcare Environment and Its Effect on Patient Health Outcomes, http://www.wales.nhs.uk/sites3/documents/254/ArchHealthEnv.pdf. Accessed 27 Mar. 2022.
 Nanda, Upali, et al. “Lessons from Neuroscience: Form Follows Function, Emotions Follow Form.” Intelligent Buildings International, vol. 5, no. sup1, 14 June 2013, pp. 61–78., https://doi.org/10.1080/17508975.2013.807767.