Arts & Culture

Eggshells inspire ritualistic art pieces

By Hannah Scott, Local Journalism Initiative reporter

Published 12:03 PDT, Fri September 3, 2021

Last Updated: 12:36 PDT, Wed September 22, 2021

Barbara Zeigler exhibits at Richmond Art Gallery

The environment and its significance has inspired Barbara Zeigler for more than 50 years.

The Richmond-based artist says she’s always marvelled at the disregard people have for everything but themselves, and that it’s important to think about the significance of other creatures and the impacts humans can have on that.

“When I started taking photographs in the later part of the 60s, it instantly keyed me into looking at what was around. At that time (I) started really realizing how much concrete there was, (and) little plants trying to push their way through the concrete. It was an opening up of sensitivity to what’s around, just the appreciation for that,” she says.

And through her drawing, Zeigler has also been able to think about how things are inter-related. These days, she mostly focuses on printmaking, which she also taught at UBC for decades before retiring last year.

Another longtime project has been washing eggshells—which has led to the creation of Totally Cracked and Passage II, two works that will be exhibited at the Richmond Art Gallery starting next month.

“About 33 years ago, for some reason, I started washing eggshells,” says Zeigler. “Mostly because they’re such interesting shapes, and they reflect light in a really interesting way.”

One summer about five or six years ago, she decided to make a video of the process of washing them, including the removal of the inner membrane. As she went through that process, she thought about the significance of rituals.

“The (video) in the gallery is in a constant state of flux, a bit like a metronome. It is constantly changing. Things like that make you think about transitions from one state to another that are necessary, as well as change,” she says.

The washed eggshells eventually became Totally Cracked, a sculptural work that spreads the shells across a bed of river rock. Zeigler says the work can be looked at through the cultural barriers related to colour—the eggs are both brown and white—and difference. Simultaneously, it can be a reflection on the decreased spawning of salmon that have traditionally laid eggs in B.C. waterways.

“I suspect different people will look at it in different ways, or bring different things to the work which you don’t realize quite often at first,” she says.

While the upcoming gallery works focus on the tradition of rituals, Zeigler says she doesn’t have any artistic rituals of her own. 

“When you teach, you never really have the luxury of doing that. Maybe in retirement there’ll be something like that.”

One plan she has for retirement is a pond ecology study at a Mayne Island studio.

“Ponds and wetlands are very important, so I’m keen at the moment to find out more about that and somehow weave that into my work as well,” she says.

Zeigler’s work will be part of the upcoming A Practice in Gestures exhibit at Richmond Art Gallery, on from Sept. 10 through Nov. 7.


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