Grebel has recently acquired River Cycle, as a new addition to the College's permanent art collection. Donations are being accepting for this piece. Contact Fred W. Martin to participate.

About the Artwork 

River Cycle Art

River Cycle is a 20-ft illuminated scroll composed of 34 individually illustrated panels. Collectively, they depict a reimagining of the biblical flood myth as an epic cyclical narrative of creation and destruction of a civilization along an infinite river of time, reframing the myth within the context of contemporary climate change, migration, the Grand River Watershed, and the colonial legacy that persists there.

This project was completed as part of the Vermont Studios Residency program and was exhibited at the Kitchener Waterloo Art Gallery (KWAG) in the exhibition, “The Brain is Wider Than the Sky” in 2018.

For this exhibition, Crystal Mowry, senior curator at Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, wrote about River Cycle in 2018:

Public viewing the river cycle art placed on the table"The Grand River functions as a type of thread within our region. Winding nearly 280 kilometres through various communities, the Grand River appears in names of local businesses, social services, and community initiatives. In recent years, its history and role in the settlement of this region surfaces, often superficially, whenever we speak of the Haldimand Tract. This swathe of land spanning the length of the Grand River, ten kilometres deep on each side, had been promised to the Six Nations for their role in the American Revolutionary war. Over time and with settlement, stewardship of the land would take a radically different turn. At the core of Meg Harder’s River Cycle is an immense, serpentine river. An imaginary looping narrative surrounds the artery, revealing two visions for a shared landscape. Borrowing and adapting the aesthetic sensibilities associated with “fraktur,” a tradition of illuminated folk art practiced by Mennonites who have settled in Ontario, Harder weaves together references to resource extraction, imperilled institutions, fantastical creatures and non-human lifeforms in the region. The seams found within the object are reminiscent of the survey lines that demarcate parcels of land on a map. By carefully sewing these seams together, Harder reminds us that there is room for repair and restoration in every narrative.”

Symbols and Images in River Cycle

river cycle artMany of the panels in River Cycle draw directly from historical works of fraktur art made in North America, in composition, style, as well as a source of images and symbols. Due to the distance of time and culture, the original “meaning” of such symbols and images for Mennonite settlers is uncertain. Harder has recycled elements of the historic genre and incorporated new images and motifs from local history, the bioregion, and her everyday experience.

Images to look for:

• Birds flying through central panels depict actual species that live or migrate through the region. How many can you identify?

• Another reappearing character is the European starling, an invasive bird known for evicting other birds from their nests.

• Other fantastical hybrid creatures are inspired by local flora and fauna such as morel mushrooms, wild leeks, and bloodroot.

• Some of the architectural drawing was inspired Waterloo Pioneer Memorial Tower and by church buildings that could be seen from Harder’s studio window in downtown Kitchener.

About the Artist

Meg Harder standing beside one of her artworks

Meg Harder was born in and lives in St. Catharines, Ontario. She works across drawing, sculpture, installation, and experimental writing to explore themes of memory and identity.

Harder received her BA in Fine Arts from the University of Waterloo, which included six months of study and studio practice at Bazellel Academy of Art in Jerusalem, and her MFA from the University of Guelph.

Harder was the 2015 Eastern Comma Artist in Residence at Rare Charitable research reserve and has completed residencies at Banff Arts Centre, Oxbow School of Art, and the Vermont Studio Centre. She has exhibited at The Lincon Museum (Jordan), The Plum (Toronto), the Kitchener-Waterloo Art Gallery, CAFKA (Kitchener), and Peanuts Gallery (Vancouver). She was a recipient of a Waterloo Region Emerging Artist Award in 2019.

Donate to this project

Online donations can be made on this website. To direct your donation choose the bottom button to open a secondary window and choose “Mennonite Archives of Ontario”. 

Contact Fred W. Martin, Director of Advancement for more details.

Conrad Grebel University College at the University of Waterloo
140 Westmount Road,
Waterloo, ON N2L 3G6
519-885-0220 x 24381