NEXT ARTIST arrowright.GIF (261 bytes)



















Wendy Oberlander


  • born in 1960 in Vancouver, British Columbia
  • mother emigrated from Germany in 1939, father from Austria in 1940
  • B.A., Pomona College, Claremont, California (1982), M.F.A., San Jose State University, San Jose, California

expanded images click on thumbnails at left to view larger images

Video and installation artist Wendy Oberlander's work is an on-going investigation into the hidden. The stories, experiences and images that survive in the margins offer the inspiration for her projects. Past installations have has focused on systems, such as nature, history and languages. She examines the classification and containing of nature in Counting to eleven on my fingers (1989), an installation consisting of two thousand green yardsticks covering the gallery floor, grass seeds marking giant x’s on the walls, and a glass observation table holding watch-glasses and petri dishes containing bacterial growth. In Leaching (by word of mouth) (1991) she relates nature to language using walls pencilled with English and French words, and motorized erasers that obscure the text. Another wall supports a narrow strip of grass, and yet another shows photographs of a book with pages turning, balls rolling through grass, and a shovel digging in the earth. "This collection of images and machines spoke about the mutability of language: the meanings and the readings of the text changed over time; the images included simple gestures of change; the grass served as a reminder of the persistence of living things" (Oberlander, 1998). In Hinges and fevers (1992), Oberlander drew from experiences of travel, showing a photograph of a failed hot-air balloon expedition to the North Pole in 1897. The installation contained a drawing of a cross-section of an iceberg, thermometers jumbled in a basin, a table with an open drawer containing hundreds of buttons. These images were a reflection of exploration and collecting, home and horizon, geography and science. She was again concerned with images of the Canadian Arctic in Float (1992), and with the nature of labour in Iceland in If these thousands (1993). In 1996, she continued her interest in language and landscape with Geography has flooded, an installation that includes a wall painted to look like water, and short texts about displacement. Also included was one excerpt from the restrictive Canadian Immigration Act of 1946. Using text stencilled on the water and an island of dictionaries piled below it, Oberlander presents different languages and their ability to act as aids or blocks to navigation. This work touches on the reality of immigration, suggesting the space in-between departure and arrival--wall and water, tongue and bridge--a space which never quite ends. A single dictionary floating apart from the pile represents perhaps a universal language, as well as indicating a solitary struggle. Also in 1996, Oberlander began to explore her Jewish heritage in Nothing to be written here. In this video, Oberlander focuses on her father’s war-time experience. A Jew who had fled from Vienna to England in 1938, Peter Oberlander was deported in 1940 at fifteen years of age, along with Jewish and non-Jewish civilian refugees and Nazi prisoners of war, to a rural prison camp in New Brunswick, because of the possibility that he was a 'dangerous enemy alien'. The film "excavates this buried and appalling chapter of Commonwealth history, links it to Canada's anti-Jewish immigration policies of the day, and to what Wendy Oberlander calls the 'transtemporal' oppression of Jews" (Nancy Pollak, 1996). Oberlander continued to reconnect with her German heritage when she returned to Berlin in 1998 with her mother, both of them guests of the city on a tour for former residents who were forced to leave during the 1930s and 1940s. This experience is the subject of a new film project, to be released in 2001. Oberlander has been an artist-in-residence at the Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia, the City of Vancouver Public Art Program, the Headlands Center for the Arts in Sausalito, California, and the Banff Centre in Banff, Alberta. Oberlander is the daughter of the city planner Peter Oberlander and landscape architect Cornelia Hahn Oberlander who designed the garden around the National Gallery of Canada in Ottawa.



1993 If these thousands
Gallery One One, Reyjavik, Iceland


1992 Float
Headlands Centre for the Arts, Sausalito, California


1991 The tugs and gaps
XS Gallery, Carson City, Nevada

Leaching (by word of mouth)
Galerie Articule, Montréal, Québec


1989 Counting to eleven on my fingers
Southern Exposure, San Francisco, California


1987 Landmarks from here and there
Gallery Four, San Jose States University, San Jose, California

Between the range
Union Art Gallery, San Francisco State University, San Francisco, California



1997-2000 Women of the Book
Battleboro Museum and Art Center, Battleboro, Vermont

The Ghost in the Machine
Charles H. Scott Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia


1996 Topographies: Aspects of Recent BC Art
Vancouver Art Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia


1995 Light Interpretations
The Jewish Museum, San Francisco, California

A Book is a Place
Centre culturel franco-manitoban, Saint-Boniface, Manitoba

Wall to Wall
Or Gallery, Vancouver, British Columbia


1992 Inductive Strategies
New Langton Arts, San Francisco, California


1990 Change through Time
SF Arts Commission Gallery, San Francisco, California



Arnold, Grant, Monika Gagnon, and Doreen Jensen. Topographies: Aspects of Recent BC Art. Vancouver, British Columbia: Douglas and McIntyre, 1996.

Bartlett, Mark. "Experimentation." Artweek (6 April 1992): n.p.

Bociurkiw, Marusya, and Karen Knights. Video Out Distribution Catalogue. Vancouver, British Columbia: Satellite Video Exchange Society, 1996.

Eisner, Ken. "Artist retraces her father's wartime steps." The Georgia Straight (11 July 1996): n.p.

Jan, Alfred. "Inductive strategies." Visions (Fall 1992): n.p.

Lazarus, Baila. "Canada's dark chapter." Western Jewish Bulletin (12 July 1996): n.p.

Oberlander, Wendy. "North." Fivefingers Review 10 (Fall 1991): n.p.

---." Phototexts." Fivefingers Review 11 (Spring 1992): n.p.

---. "Script Excerpts." Front Magazine 9, no. 1 (September/ October 1997): n.p.

---. "Wildness." Harbour (Spring 1993): n.p.

Pollak, Nancy. "Gifts and cruelties of displacement." Fuse 20, no. 1 (Winter 1997): 35-36.

Porges, Maria. "San Francisco." Contemporanea (January 1990): n.p.

Solnit, Rebecca. "Beyond the object." Artweek (5 April 1990): n.p.

---. "Transcendental Materialism." Visions (Spring 1991): n.p.


NEXT ARTIST arrowright.GIF (261 bytes)

arhome.GIF (262 bytes) HOME