On the Edge of This Immensity is part of the photographic series As Immense as the Sky, 2019, by Meryl McMaster (b.1988). For this project, the Ottawa-based artist, searching for knowledge and wisdom in the face of climate change, visited places in central and southern Saskatchewan, Ontario, and Newfoundland that held special significance to her nêhiyaw (Plains Cree) and European (British/Dutch) ancestors.
In this image, McMaster is standing at the edge of the water in Gore Bay on Manitoulin Island, where her mother’s ancestors—originally from Holland—lived for a time before settling in Saskatchewan in the late eighteenth century. In spite of her picturesque surroundings, McMaster protectively carries a boat containing black birds on her shoulder as she gazes at something unknown beyond the frame. With this work and the series more broadly, McMaster captures the beauty of the land and the histories and knowledge it preserves while acknowledging its precarious future.
On the Edge of This Immensity exemplifies McMaster’s practice of creating photographic self-portraits that involve elaborate costumes, props, and makeup. The artist says that the images “are me and not me. I still am a pretty shy, introverted person, and didn’t want to ask someone to pose for me. [But] I kept coming back to wanting my voice to be personal in my work so maybe I was really the best person to be the subject of the work.”