Following the trail of John Franklin’s voyage to discover the Northwest Passage, I sailed on the Russian ship Akademik Ioffe, taking photographs throughout my journey. Using the horizon and the hues of the landscape as points of reference, I placed different-coloured felt in front of my lens. The felt filters and flattens part of the image, while simultaneously maintaining a long view. It gives tactility to the images, bringing touch and sight together. The horizon is a viewpoint always beyond reach; it describes limits of perception. As polar space—once considered the limit of empire and human experience—is becoming more accessible with open waters, the fight to claim resources intensifies. Colour “slips into” these works, as if from the sky or the ground. What is covered up by the felt is also what is opened up for the viewer to imagine, interpret, extend, and feel.
Jessica Houston’s multimedia works concern perception, ecology, and time. With minimal means, she quietly challenges modern myths that glorify technology and progress. Her works are intrinsically connected to their environment; they grow out of deeper questions about sustainable engagement with the natural world. She has travelled to the Arctic on numerous occasions, including as an invited artist aboard a Cape Farewell voyage. She has created site-specific works for the New Jersey Museum of Contemporary Art (Asbury Park, New Jersey), the Castello di Corigliano (Puglia, Italy), Governors Island (New York), and Albany Airport. Select exhibitions and projects include Galerie Art Mûr (Montreal), Art in Odd Places (New York), International Polar Year Conference (Oslo), The Painting Center (New York), Printed Matter (New York), the Museum of Contemporary Art (Detroit), Arts House (Melbourne, Australia), and Chiesa di San Lorenzo (Florence, Italy). She has been awarded residencies at the Albers Foundation (Bethany, Connecticut), NES (Skagaströnd, Iceland), and the CAMAC Centre of Art, Science, and Technology (France). Her works are in public and private collections, including the Bank of Montreal, Susan and Michael Hort, and Dr. Diane Vachon.