Frances Cordero de Bolaños: COFFEE & PINE

Frances Cordero de Bolaños


Spirit of the Natural World, Beauty, and Complexities

Thursday, April 18 – Friday, June 7, 2024

Opening Reception: April 20 from 2-5 pm
Garden Party: May 25, from 2-5 pm

The John B. Aird Gallery is proud to present an exhibition titled COFFEE & PINE: Spirit of the Natural World, Beauty, and Complexities, by Salvadoran Canadian artist, Frances Cordero de Bolaños, and curated by Gallery Director, Carla Garnet. The exhibition showcases Central American and northern-hemisphere forests in technicolor, photo-based, still, and moving-image landscapes.

Her ecofeminist works capture the supernatural qualities of both the boreal and tropical rainforests and highlight the role forests play in natural water conservation. The multi-sensory exhibition invites visitors to engross themselves in a fully immersive environment, emphasizing the importance of preserving and protecting natural ecosystems.

Standing tall in the mud.
Not like the flower’s stalk
and butterfly’s desire . . .
No roots, no flitting,
more erect, more sure
and more free.

— Excerpt from “Sketch of the woman of the future” by Claudia Lars (Margarita del Carmen Brannon Vega), translated by Liz Henry.

In the past half-century, more than 50 percent of the global population has migrated from rural areas to densely populated cities, emphasizing the importance of landscape imagery in conveying environmental knowledge. This knowledge highlights the fundamental principle of ecology which is, that interdependent elements must work together harmoniously to benefit the entire ecosystem.

Cordero de Bolaños’ Aird Gallery/CONTACT Festival exhibition features pine- and coffee-scented photographic prints while wooden structures, moss, and other plants envelop viewers within a fully realized environment. Inasmuch, the artist aims to remind us that climate issues, immigration, migration, borders, and geographical contexts are all interconnected. Drawing inspiration from the eco-feminist poet Claudia Lars, the artist also highlights the links between photography and the ecofeminist movement. She relies on her camera as a tool to address her concerns about human rights, women’s issues, and how they correspond to the natural world, as well as to keep herself involved in an ecological struggle.

Cordero de Bolaños has always been fascinated by nature. Growing up in rural El Salvador, she spent countless hours learning and exploring her father’s coffee farm and the nearby woods. El Salvador and Nicaragua are Central American countries known for their rich natural resources. Despite their small populations, these lands have access to the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, making them strategic locations for trade and commerce. However, in the early 1980s, the situation changed. The United States intervened in El Salvador to stop reform and revolution. They funded and trained paramilitary groups that later became central to the country’s “death squad” apparatus. The death squads were fascist groups that murdered, tortured, and raped their political opponents. The conflict turned into a long and violent one, causing many people to flee their homes for safety. Cordero de Bolaños was one of those people, seeking refuge in Costa Rica in 1980 at the age of 13, before finally settling in Canada five years later.

After graduating from the University of Toronto, she worked as the acting Manager of Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives (CSMARI) at the Department of Canadian Heritage, while continuing her active field and studio practice, noting that immigration, migration, borders, and geographic contexts intersect with climate issues under debate in international environmental governance circles. Her video vignettes, photographic images, and installations reveal her passion for communicating the beauty found in nature—According to Cordero de Bolaños, being outdoors “frees me from all burdens of life, and when contemplating the landscapes, the sky, water, sounds, scents, and the winds bring back childhood memories, it allows me to concentrate on the self, the spirit, and the soul.”

Coffee & Pine: Spirit of the Natural World, Beauty, and Complexities, is full of magic and realism, a prominent feature of Latin American literary and artistic tradition. Cordero de Bolaños’ installation captures the supernatural qualities of both the boreal and tropical rainforests, highlighting their spiritual and ecological functions. Her photographs present views of rivers cascading through their heavily wooded terrains, emphasizing forests’ vital role in providing habitat, nutrients, natural water conservation, carbon capture, and oxygen production, on both local and global scales.

Through her work, the artist examines how cultural identity can shape our perception and portrayal of nature, and how this can also affect our lives and the stories we tell. Her research highlights how the positive aspects of migration can sometimes obscure the actual “loss and damage” that occurs when we sever our real, material, and ecological connections with the land. Cordero de Bolaños argues that humanity needs to recognize the true value of natural elements like forests, wetlands, rain, sunlight, and soil to foster a more sustainable future.


FRANCES CORDERO DE BOLAÑOS is a contemporary artist who currently resides in Oakville, Ontario. Up until very recently, she worked as the acting Manager of Community Support, Multiculturalism, and Anti-Racism Initiatives (CSMARI) at the Department of Canadian Heritage. Frances immigrated from El Salvador to Canada in 1985.

Frances’s artwork explores a range of subjects such as nature, sports, women’s issues, violence, conflict, and war. Her pieces are known for being playful, dark, and somewhat grotesque, using various media and techniques to express her ideas and concerns.

CARLA GARNET is the Director and Curator of the John B. Aird Gallery. She has worked as the curator at the Art Gallery of Peterborough (2010-2013), as a guest curator at Gallery Stratford (2009-2010), as an independent curator (1997-2010), and was the founder and director of Garnet Press Gallery (1984-97). Garnet holds an Associate Diploma from the Ontario College of Art and Design and a Masters’ Degree in Art History from York University. Her core projects include  Suzy Lake Choreographed Puppets and Flowers and Photography in which she claims that there is a relationship between Photography and Feminism.

Garnet is interested in the politics of the art exhibition and its potential to function as a common—public space for dialogue. Her curatorial area of interest engages with an exploration of work that presents the possibility of existing simultaneously in many tenses or occupying more than one subject position at once, or both as a way to open up a space for greater empathy. For Garnet, an artwork’s significance is tied up with an ability to say what otherwise might be unsayable.