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Geological inspiration

First Space Gallery exhibit: All Roads Lead to Here

Campus and Community

By Kristine Power

One advantage of working in the map room in the Queen Elizabeth II Library (QEII) at Memorial University is uncovering unique historical material about the province’s geological past.

For more than 10 years, visual artist and QEII employee Joanne Costello has been researching the geological work of James. P. Howley, particularly The Reminiscences of J. P. Howley: Selected Years.

Joanne Costello
Joanne Costello with her sketch book.
Photo: Kristine Power

The book, edited by Dr. William J. Kirwin, Dr. George M. Story and Dr. Patrick O’Flaherty — all former members of Memorial’s Department of English, has inspired Ms. Costello since she first discovered it.

“I was browsing through the stacks of the fifth floor of the QEII Library, one of the joys of my job, and I happened to come across the book,” she said.

“Howley’s enthusiasm  and his love of the outdoors really struck me, and his descriptions of the geology of the province were so unique and beautiful. For example, he uses descriptors in his book like “silky blue slate,” so unlike anything you typically find in a modern geology report.”

Howley (1847-1918) is credited with producing the first full-colour geological map of Newfoundland, published in 1907.

All Roads Lead to Here

Through a project grant from the Newfoundland Arts Council, Ms. Costello revisited areas Howley describes in his field books and journals and made her own drawings and observations. Her modern “surveys” are now part of a new exhibit, All Roads Lead to Here, in the First Space Gallery of the QEII and demonstrate an intriguing interplay between archival subject matter and an artist’s personal journey.

“Landforms and geology have been a constant theme in my work,” said Ms. Costello. “This show reflects my evolution as an artist that has developed over time, like the geology I paint, layer upon layer.”

1/ Parti-coloured like a patch quilt

"The whole mass presents a very peculiar appearance, being parti-coloured like a patch quilt." -- J.P. Howley

Photo: Dennis Flynn

2/ Beautiful marble

"It is a very beautiful marble." -- J.P. Howley

Photo: Dennis Flynn

3/ Only a small section

"It’s only a small section about 52 paces altogether." -- J.P. Howley

Photo: Dennis Flynn

4/ More yielding portion

"The more yielding portion of the strata." -- J.P. Howley

Photo: Dennis Flynn

First Space Gallery has shown work by emerging artists since 2004 and continues its commitment to foster creative expression that celebrates Memorial’s dynamic campus and its thriving surrounding community.

The opening event takes place on Friday, Sept. 8, from 6-7:30 p.m. For Gallery hours, please visit here. Find the gallery on Facebook here.


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