Body in Crisis

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series of works, nature, meaning, suffering, paper,suffering, disruption, trees, Judeo-Christian, suffering for a cause, crosses,materials of a traditional art practice, disruption, twigs, crosses, suffering

Von Tiesenhausen’s  seriesA number of things or events standing or succeeding in order, and connected by a like relation; sequence; order; course; a succession of things; as, a continuous series of calamitous events. (The Online Plain Text English Dictionary)  of works entitled Procession shows twigs arranged in a cross-shaped configuration. Each segment of the work adds horizontal and vertical branches creating an accumulation of crosses in the series. The images remind us of the procession that begins services of worship in many Christian traditions, particularly the Catholic and Orthodox churches, where the cross-bearer leads the celebrant and other members of the congregation into the worship area. They literally “process” in to begin the service.

start quoteI always think what needs to happen, happens.end quote-- Peter Von Tiesenhausen

In the Christian context, the cross represents Jesus' suffering for a cause, and by extension represents the cause itself. But the cross also represents resurrection and redemption. Because there is no depiction of Jesus in Procession, and the cross is made up of natural-looking twigs (rather than carved and trimmed boards or logs), this may be a suggestion that the trees are the ones that are suffering. Because the crosses accumulate, we can read this work as meaning that the amount of suffering continues to grow, and the artist uses materials of traditional art practice to emphasize his point - that the disruption of trees is to be mourned, rather than celebrated.

On the other hand, when we consider the procession of the seasons, which von Tiesenhausen was familiar with, we see that the “dead of winter” leads to spring and the renewal of life. The accumulation of crosses in this series of works could also be regarded as representing the growing potential for resurrection and rebirth. If so, von Tiesenhausen has led us to the question, “How do I realize the potential that is there?”


additional resources Things to Think About
  • In what ways are you aware, over the course of an average day, of the changing of the environment or of the natural world? How do these changes affect your life, your behaviour, or your health?

  • Many of the works in this theme are parts of artistic series, or sets of artworks that are designed to follow one after the other. Why might this be? Is the theme of Body in Crisis inherently linked with the passage of time or the progress from one thing to the next? How?

  • Von Tiesenhausen titled one of his works Icarus, after the Greek mythological character who tried to escape the island of Crete, but who flew too close to the sun, and died. (See: for information on the Icarus story.) He named another work Prometheus, referring to the Titan in Greek mythology who stole fire from Zeus and gave it to humans to use. Prometheus was later tortured by Zeus for his disobedience. (See: for information on the Prometheus story.) Von Tiesenhausen seems to be suggesting that humans suffer as a result of their drive to control and understand the external world. Do these examples fit with the theme Body in Crisis?
Studio Activity
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Nature poem

Peter von Tiesenhausen is known for creating artworks based on nature or environmental themes.  Go out into a natural  settingThe hardening process of paint, plaster of Paris, concrete, resin, an adhesive, or any other material which must harden before working with it further. (  near you, find a dead organic object - a leaf, a twig, a shell - and observe it.

  • Write a poem, song or story about how it came to be where it is, and how it ceased to be a part of a living thing.
  • Write about what will happen to it over time; will it sink into the earth, get washed out to sea or into a lake, or be eaten by another living thing?

Create an environmental artwork

Using  collagePainting and/or gluing a variety of materials on a prepared surface to create a work of art.  and cut-paper techniques, create a set of shapes that are from the natural world.

  • Use leaves, twigs, pebbles, grasses, animals, clouds, mountains, or whatever items from nature you choose.

Jaremko, Gordon.  ‘Peter von Tiesenhausen, Opposition To Drilling Elevated To An Art.’  The Edmonton Journal, February 27, 2006.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 22, 2008 from:

Kuchma, Michael.  ‘Peter von Tiesenhausen.’  Canadian Art, September 15, 2007.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 22, 2008 from:

Newlands, Anne. ‘Peter von Tiesenhausen.’  In Canadian Paintings, Prints and Drawings, Firefly Books, Richmond Hill, Ont., 2007.

Obad, Joe.  ‘Peter von Tiesenhausen:  his land and art.’  Galleries West, date unknown.  Retrieved from the Internet on August 22, 2008 from:


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