Marlene MacCallum

Website link for complete documentation

Website link for Shadows Cast and Present

Instagram: @marlenemaccallum


Marlene MacCallum lives in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada. Marlene is an Honorary Research Professor of the Visual Arts Program, Grenfell Campus, Memorial University where she taught printmaking, photography and book arts. She retired from teaching in 2016 and relocated from Corner Brook, NL to PEC. Her practice has also moved, from singular photogravure prints, to their integration into artist’s books to the inclusion of writing and interactive digital formats. Consistent is the attention to the poetic potential of the ordinary matters of daily life. Marlene has exhibited prints and book works in 131 solo, invited and juried exhibitions in 18 countries. Her works are held in 48 public collections. Marlene was elected to the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts in 2006. She and David Morrish co-authored Copper Plate Photogravure: Demystifying the Process (Focal Press) published in 2003. Her research projects on Artists’ Publishing and The Visual Book were funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. She received the ABE Artist’s Book award for Shadow: Still Life in conjunction with the Art of the Book 2018. In 2020 her project, Shadows Cast and Present, was funded by the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Originals Grant.


I appreciate the opportunity to share my work with the CBAA community. I have focused on two projects. Shadow is an ongoing project, an artist’s book variation on the long poem format. Each piece, or canto, is a discrete and distinct manifestation of “shadows” cast within our domestic spaces and by our daily activities. These works were all created after I moved from Newfoundland to Ontario. Relocating studios meant adapting my working process and methods to whatever was currently available. Our inkjet printer was the first workable printing tool, and thus Shadow: Still Life was created and produced. Since that time, our letterpress and intaglio facilities have been established and I envision that the fourth canto, Travelogue, will incorporate these printing processes. However, responding to change has resulted in increased focus on content, the introduction of poetry and an ever-growing appreciation of the implications of folding and unfolding structures.

Shadows Cast and Present is the digital re-imagining of three cantos from the artist’s book project Shadow. This variation on the long poem format integrates imagery, writing, video and soundscapes into an interactive digital artwork. This work is available at I gratefully acknowledge the funding support of the Canada Council for the Arts Digital Originals Grant. This program was created to help artists promote and disseminate their work in the current Covid-19 reality. In an interesting synchronicity, I had been thinking of making a dematerialized or virtual iteration of my book works as a way to address the physical restrictions incurred when exhibiting and sharing art that takes the form of book-like structures. It was fascinating to explore the potential of interaction in this new, immaterial, context. Shadows Cast and Present could only have been realized with the creative input of my two collaborators, Matthew Hollett and David Morrish. Matthew transformed the individual elements into an interactive digital entity with an uncanny ability to translate the intention of physical book work into this new form. David assisted with the creation of the sound elements, helping me create the individual layers and then bring them all together into a rich space. Their input and insights improved the work and I extend them my sincere thanks.

The remainder of this statement provides information on the specific cantos. The title of each canto refers to an undervalued art form and echoes my politic of attending to the overlooked and dismissed aspects of daily lives. The first canto, Still Life, began when a cedar waxwing flew into a picture window and died. Avian fatalities are tragically common because of the excessive size of our windows. The emotional experience triggered a memory of the first canto from Vladimir Nabokov’s Pale Fire, “I was the shadow of the waxwing slain by the false azure in the windowpane…” and the fictitious poet then proceeds to create imagery of the viewer seeing reflections and doublings of the interior and exterior spaces. Building on this literary source, my visual recording of the incident evolved into both an elegy and a musing on the nature of stilled lives. The poem is written from the bird’s perspective. The sequence and structure of the still life images and videos of flickering light encourage the viewer to create their own pairings. The piece is a contemplation of images of interiority and the nature of the “still life” and the stilled life.

Graffiti is the second canto. Graffiti began with the discovery of a serial graffiti piece in an underpass in Rochester, NY. The artist was anonymous, but I would like to thank them for their piece. I was fascinated by the representation of a creature in flight locked into a static wall. My photographic record of this discovery was the starting point for the series of layered images presented in Imprint. While layering the images of the graffiti and actual birds, I was struck by the counterpoint of the images. This introduced a musical component to the piece. I studied piano but do not perform. In response to the interplay of images, I selected three piano pieces where the musical voices interact in a way that felt relevant. I scanned the musical notation and then condensed each piece into a single visual representation. These images were then printed out and transferred onto copper, creating a visual record or performance. For Shadows Cast and Present, I have performed interpretations of the three piano pieces and layered these with soundscapes from my environment. The music becomes an element of its surrounding space. Graffiti is about duets and an exploration of dualities. It is an attempt to make permanent records of fleeting instants; birds fly by, the murmur of musical notes fades away.

The third canto, Incidental Music, is about shifting visual and psychological states. Naturally occurring patterns of light and shadow create cyclical but transient intrusions into interior spaces. Sunlight progresses through the time and space of the pages with a brief shadow-play balancing-act performed mid-way through. The poem is a variation on the villanelle and cycles through psychological states. The soundscape evokes subtle movements in a space so quiet that you can hear the most minute sound. Each component of the piece, image, poems, soundscapes exists independently and plays out its own rhythmic logic and integrity; a visual, poetic and structural ostinati. The components complement each other by their shared manifestation of transitions. Incidental music bridges one scene to the next. In this piece, however, the interlude is the significant event; the condition of being the present.

Whatever the inspiration, my work begins with handmade paper and ends with a well-crafted and unique object that I hope will be cherished by others for generations.


All works by Marlene MacCallum, photo credit: the artist

Shadow: Still Life, Canto One: hand bound artist’s book with slipcase, pamphlet binding with gatefold structure, inkjet on aya, 2018. Edition of 15. View of the title page spread. 23.4 x 34 cm (page spread)

Shadow: Still Life View of the structure partially opened.

Shadow: Still Life, View of the third spread of pages, fully expanded. Dimensions: 23.4 x 68.5 cm when fully opened

Shadow: Graffiti, Canto Two: hand bound artist’s book with slipcase, accordion binding with hard covers, inkjet on aya and niyodo, 2018. Edition of 15. View of slipcase, front cover and back cover. Dimensions: 23.7 x 16 x 1.4 cm when closed

Shadow: Graffiti, View of extended accordion, graffiti and bird imagery printed on aya, 23.3 x 124.8 when fully expanded

Shadow: Graffiti, View of extended accordion, musical notation imagery printed on niyodo

Shadow: Incidental Music, Canto Three: hand bound artist’s book with image accordion suspended over text accordion with a concertina spacer. Images are digital pigment prints on Digital Aya, hand-set letterpress poem in 12 point Goudy Old Style and blind embossed soundscape letterpress in 16 point Univers Bold. Case bound with digital pigment print covers on Anasazi Canvas Premium Matte wrapped around Eterno Boards. 2019. Edition of 16. Closed dimensions: 23.7 x 15.9 x 1.1 cm

Shadow: Incidental Music, two standing views, 23.6 x 30 cm (page spread)

Shadow: Incidental Music, view of the two accordion structures revealing the poem in the bottom accordion

Shadows Cast and Present, an interactive digital artwork, view of the home page, 2020 available at:

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