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Medicine of the Great Horned Owl | by Lily Swain


I love working on a large scale and I enjoy the challenge of working within fixed parameters. When I was approached with idea of creating a large piece for the newly opened North Market Café in Almonte, ON, I jumped at the opportunity.


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I planned this mixed-media piece to be a site specific work, taking into account the large size of the room, the seventeen foot ceilings, history of the building and the owners of the business. I intended this piece to be interactive whereby the viewer is initially confronted with the direct gaze of a six foot tall Great Horned Owl keeping watch, protecting the space. When the viewer engages with the piece at a closer distance they are drawn into a world of texture, pattern, colour and paper collage. These elements are carefully layered to evoke the feeling of time as elastic, an ever-shifting continuum where past, present and future coexist.

Darkness fills the sky as Great Horned Owl sits perched overlooking a cosmic landscape where past, present and future merge. This piece speaks to us across time and speaks to us of the loss of our natural world. I invite the viewer to see the universal reality of the world as ubiquitous and timeless, demanding to be seen and heard. This is the power of Great Horned Owl: she comes to us as a sign of change and new cycles. She represents darkness and light, connected to both the physical and spirit world. Medicine of Great Horned Owl shows us how to face our fears and reminds us of our strength, courage and personal wisdom.

This piece was influenced and inspired by the space where it hangs and by the people who use it. I made this work at a time when my world had infinitely changed by the birth of my second child. Great Horned Owl came to my mind’s eye and acted as my guide through the process of creating this piece. Look for signs; they are all around us.