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Gulf Islands tafoni accented in new Port Moody art show

The art inspired by honeycomb rock formations on the Gulf Islands is the subject of a new exhibit at PoMoArts in Port Moody.


Most people have never heard the word, let alone know what it means, says Carolyn Sullivan, a photographer and film artist whose group show about the subject is now up at PoMoArts in Port Moody.

It was during the COVID-19 pandemic when the New Westminster creator bought a home on Mayne Island and started to explore its geography, taking photos of the unusual rock formations on her kayaking journeys and on hikes.

Tafoni, the cavities that form in granular rock that make it look like honeycombs or Swiss cheese, fascinated Sullivan who compared the erosion patterns to women’s lives as they mature.

And every time Sullivan returned to view the rocks around the Gulf Island, they changed with the tides.

“I could definitely see a connection to women’s bodies and how the water, logs and debris shifted their shapes,” she told the Tri-City News on Wednesday during a tour of the exhibit at PoMoArts.

For Tafoni: Weathering, Sullivan asked four female artists to complement the show with other media.

First, she brought on Burnaby’s Denise Jeffrey after seeing her water-themed sculptures in the Blackberry Gift Shop at PoMoArts, where the Nova Scotian volunteers with the Blackberry Artists Society.

Jeffrey told the Tri-City News she had visited the Gulf Islands for years and “had no idea about the name ‘tafoni.’”

Next on board were Victoria abstract artist Ellen Pelto and Sande Waters, a North Vancouver visual artist.

Sullivan invited the trio to her island getaway to study tafoni and the coastal landscapes; their art resulted in a gallery display last year at Queen’s Park in the Royal City.

Still, a fifth multi-media dimension was recently added for the PoMoArts exhibit with poetry and dance from SFU instructor Celeste Snowber, a former Port Moody resident. Her dance on Galiano Island is captured on video, highlighting the space between water and land.

In total, the five artists have about a dozen pieces each in Tafoni: Weathering, which opened last Thursday and runs until May 6 in the Canadian Pacific Gallery at the St. Johns Street facility.

Jeffrey said the tafoni theme is inspiring her to create other projects about the human connection to geology.

PoMoArts (2425 St. Johns St., Port Moody) is open on weekdays from 10:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. For more details about the exhibit, visit the venue’s website or call 604-931-2008.