Reenie Marx, a well-known photographer living in Vankleek Hill, is presenting a solo exhibition at Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre from March 6 to April 7. Intrigued by the title of the show: “Roots to Crown: Discovering Connection,” I sat down with Reenie to learn more about where the idea for the show came from, and how she hopes to present her photographs.

What was the impetus behind the subject/theme you chose for this show?

Last winter, my son gave me the book The Hidden Life of Trees by Peter Wohlleben. Reading it set off an intense longing to see for myself the old growth forests of Tofino, Uculet, and Meares Island.  I had lived for 40 years in the forests of the Laurentians, but nothing prepared me for the experience of being with trees that are hundreds of years old, in a forest that has been largely untouched by human hands.

What was that experience like?

The first morning after I arrived, despite the cold damp weather, I headed out alone into a forest near Florencia Bay. Within minutes of being on the trail I saw an opening just off the path and I walked into it. Standing utterly still and silent amongst those ancient living creatures I felt an indescribable energy around me, as if I had stepped into a parallel universe. I sat down on a stump and just breathed, listened, and looked around. Then I saw a tree that seemed to stand at the center of the grove. It was one of the mother trees that Wohlleben described in his book. I reverently photographed her and a few of her relatives, then put away my camera. Some part of me knew that the experience of being there was worth far more than any photo I could take.

What is the significance of the title?

Connection is a word that resonates for us all. As human beings today we’re often cut off from nature and even other people, and that feeling of separation and isolation leaves us with a longing for connection. That 10-day silent retreat/photoshoot/forest immersion experience led me to my own roots; to a sense of wholeness, and a connection to something far greater than myself.  I don’t know if one can communicate such things in the two dimensional world of photos and words, but that’s what I hope to do in this show.

How do you intend to do that?

Obviously, the central element will be the photos themselves, taken not only in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, but also Portugal, England, the Columbia River Gorge, the Florida Everglades, and of course, the Laurentians. I’ll also be incorporating different people’s poetry and quotes from Wohlleben’s book, all with the goal of deepening the viewer’s knowledge and appreciation of trees, nature and that inner place of connection.  Creating a “forest grove” inside the gallery will be challenging  given the fact that most of things I’d like to use are under three feet of snow,  but one thing I will be doing is erecting  two “trees” from which I’ll be suspending about 30-40 “leaves.”  Each of these 4 x 6 images printed on heavyweight fine art paper with lovely torn edges, will have a quote on it.  On the day of the vernissage,  March 9, people will be able to purchase the one(s) they like and take them home that day.  I’ve been posting some examples of them on my ReenieMarxPhotography Facebook page to give people an idea of what they’ll see.

Is there anything else you’d like people to know about your show?

I feel like this show is a bit of a homecoming for me in that it’s the first time I’ve had a solo exhibition in Vankleek Hill.  It’s also a chance to honour and expose three of my great passions: photography, a love of nature, and following a spiritual path. My hope is to inspire people to protect the trees and nature,  and connect to that inner space which is more vibrant and timeless than even the old-growth forests.

Roots to Crown: Discovering Connection, will continue from March 6 to April 7 at Arbor Gallery Cultural Centre, located at 36 Home Avenue in Vankleek Hill. The vernissage takes place on Saturday, March 9, at the gallery, from 2 to 4 p.m.

Written by Mark Greenwald.