The Reconstructing Nature series are narrative in style and explore the arena of the personal and the collective. The constructed artifice of the scaffolding used to build or repair buildings interfacing with living trees create a discordant co-existence. It brings into questioning the multiple, often contradictory issues we face as members of a fragmented society disconnected and protected from nature and from self. It is suggested that we as a collective have a shared responsibility to heal, repair and transform our planet.
‘Reconstructing Nature 1V’ 2017 acrylic on canvas 24″ x 36″ x 1.5
‘Reconstructing Nature 111’ 2017 acrylic on canvas 24″ x 36″ x 1.5
‘Protection Zone’ 2016 manufactured Jack Straws, plasticine clay, cedar branch 10″ x 18″ x 10″
The pick-up-sticks in the children’s game, “Jack Straws” are fashioned to resemble different types of tools of trade similar to those seen protruding from the back of city maintenance trucks.
In this maquette, I reconfigured the game pieces into a fence surrounding a branch from a cedar tree. In many cities, fences are often built around trees when a nearby building will be torn down or built. A sign is hung on these fences that reads ‘Protection Zone’. My intention is to one day see this sculpture constructed on a large scale and placed in a public space.
Back from Cambodia enriched and inspired
Photo: Bou Meng signing his book for me. He is one of the two remaining surviving artist of the notorious execution centre, Security Prison 21 Toul Sleng that was operated by the Khymer Rouge.
2017 was a expansive year full of first times, taking risks, accepting failure and experiencing successes.
“Opening up a door before I close it” is a motto I live by. Last month I experienced cycling for the first time in countries I have never been to and now I am at the other end looking back.
I joined 12 other people from around the world and we cycled for 15 days and 900 km on mountain bikes with fat wheels on roads that wove through villages, rice paddies, jungles and insane city streets.
We started in Thailand, crossed Cambodia and finished in Vietnam. I discovered that I am stronger and more resilient than I ever knew. Travelling by bike was close up, connected and inspiring. Villagers would go out of their way to make you welcome. I brought with me 100 gel glitter pens to give to the children and parents so I could find a way to connect and give something back. The joy that came from the exchange will be with me forever.
I wondered at moments what the heck was I thinking when it was 37 degrees and humid and riding on narrow roads. There were horn blowing trucks zooming by, zigzagging scooters laden with people and things, dogs and chickens coming from all directions and welcoming children trying to give you high fives as you road by white knuckled trying to keep safe. It was like playing a video game but you were in it!
The highlights of my trip were many but the life changing experience was the day I went to volunteer to teach painting for the Children’s Cambodia Fund based in the slum of Phnom Penh. It was a last minute idea. I tracked down an ex- colleague of mine from Emily Carr, Nicky Ward to see if there was anything I could bring or do for the organization. Nicky went to Cambodia 6 years ago to see the sunrise at Angor Wat and felt a calling to stay there. After more visits and research he realized that he had a purpose and could make a difference and returned for good to Cambodia and started to work with CCF. In the 70’s with the uprising and rule of the Khmer Rouge there was a mass genocide of the intellectuals and minority groups including most artists. There are only a few living artists from the recent past so the continuity of the arts was disrupted and there is little contemporary Cambodia art. Nicky has become a moving force to bring it to present time. He invited me to the the slum of Phnom Penh where I was taken to a ‘state of the art high school’ that was recently built by the generous donation from Velcro Corporation. I brought with me 45 pounds of professional art materials generously donated by Opus, Deserres and Kroma. While still in Vancouver, I shared my plans with students, friends and random people and out the spirit of generosity I was given money donations. A friend donated a big suitcase and volunteered to pack it up for me. I was overwhelmed by such kindness and support.
I entered the art room (first time being used) and met with students ranging from grade 10 to 2nd year University who understood and spoke English. I taught an introductory workshop on acrylic painting focusing on their desire to learn color mixing.
It was a beautiful exchange with the students who at one time were abandoned street children living off the garbage dump trying to survive in a hostile and unforgiving environment.
Even though I was there for a short time I left behind the suitcase full of art supplies and in the New Year I will continue my teaching using Skype. I am looking forward to the artwork that will eventually be created about their lives and their culture.
Nicky Ward standing next to his amazing socially engaged art project commissioned by Velcro Corporation