Post by Allegra Whistler

2019 was a very exciting year for Below B.C. We were able to carry out a number of new initiatives and try some new collaborations. One collaboration was with artist Nicole Shaver ( and the James Black Gallery ( Take a look at Allegra Whistler’s blog based on her interview with Nicole.

“Sciences provide an understanding of a universal experience, and arts provide a universal understanding of a personal experience.” – Mae Jemison (NASA Astronaut, Doctor, Scientist)

The Anthropocene is an unofficial epoch in which we currently reside, where human activity dominates the landscape and environment. The global community is plagued with issues – climate change, plastic pollution, extinctions, politics – the list goes on. We live in a time where “our waste becomes our immediate unwanted past,” said Nicole Shaver, resident artist of Vancouver’s James Black Gallery. In March 2019, Nicole used waste materials sourced from Vancouver and its citizens to create an integrated art and geology exhibit, Lotto Grotto.

In Lotto Grotto, Nicole displays a series of drawings and sculptures, inspired by concepts of stratigraphy, topped off with rocks and minerals from the Below BC collection. The materials composing the sculptures – sand, cement, bricks, glass, broken mirrors – were “mined” from the gallery’s property, nearby construction sites, Craigslist, and Green Coast Rubbish Inc. Her exhibition is a perfect example of STEAM, where STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and art collide to become one. Science and art are two different methods of inquiry; but work together to fuel our imagination and further our knowledge.

Although it may not appear to be obvious, there are parallels between science and art. For example, both geologists and artists are trained to first observe from a distance then move in closer and make fine scale observations. Just like many geologists, Nicole has a natural curiosity of the world and spends time picking up rocks from the ground. As a visual learner, Nicole is drawn to the textures and colors of rocks specimens, and the form and scale of all-encompassing landforms. When she paints, she thinks in layers and is reminded of stratigraphy and the layers of the earth.

Located in the front of the gallery, the main sculpture of the exhibit was strategically placed in an enclave with a window looking north to the Coast Mountains. Clouds and tress from the outside environment were brought in through the reflections off of mirrors and glass. At golden hour, sunrise and sunset, the whole room glowed. “I wanted to create an open atmosphere for investigation and wondering. Where people can slow down, question what they’re looking at and start a conversation,” said Nicole, “a space for curiosity and critical thinking.”

“Geology is within our planet. It is our human right to understand ourselves and the planet we live on,” said Nicole. Lotto Grotto reminds us that we, artists and scientists, should be coming together to talk about the issues at hand, and collaborate to find solutions.