Trees, Reeds, and Marshes
Trees and branches tied together in artfully suspended arcs, hover just above the clear reflecting surface of water at dusk in the Sackville Waterfowl Park. This beautiful and intricate sculpture, made by American artist Roy Staab, is impressive both in its scope and in its ephemerality, as it is constructed with the understanding that it will gradually fall apart over time and merge back into the nature from whence it came.
If you walk along the boardwalk of the Sackville Waterfowl park this summer, you’re bound to see many other such interventions in the landscape. “Sculpture Sackville” is bringing together major artists from around the world to create environmental artwork in the marshes, with openings for new works every two weeks. The “Sackville Sculpture” project is funded by the Cultural Capitals of Canada program and is described as a “celebration of art with a sustainable edge; sculpture and culture: an art that goes with – not against – nature.”
Artists involved in the project include: Yolande Gutteriez from Mexico, Gilles Bruni from France, Bob Verschueren from Belgium, Nils-Udo from Germany, Roy Staab and Jerilea Zempel from America, Francesca Vivenza from Toronto, Michael Flomen from Montreal, and Sackville’s own Kip Jones, Jennifer Macklem, Darren Spiddell, and Paul Griffin.
Curator John K. Grande, is an expert in the field of environmental art who has published several books on this topic. Based in Montreal, Grande worked with the town of Sackville to curate this project and he came down in person to oversee the installation and openings of some of these works. In discussing the direction of this project, he says “I feel nature is a universal backdrop to human unconscious history - and this show is about nature.” He expands on this by saying “the implications are that we understand our place in relation to the living universe that we are a part of - art segregated from life is a worthless endeavour. Proof is in change - these artworks will not last just as we won’t in the short run.”
In one of his books, he describes the immediate social relevance of this kind of artwork, as he writes: “Indeed many of the ideas initiated by these artists are seized on by “professionals” in others fields - landscapers, designers, architects, horticulturists, educators, and craftspeople. This gives a sense of how relevant an art that deals with the experience of nature really is, even moreso in a world where new technological innovations are increasingly pulling us away from direct experience [….]”
He discusses the extent of the influence that this genre of work has on an international level, as he writes, “The art nature phenomenon is occurring simultaneously in many places, among a great variety of artists, in many countries, and […] this synchronicity is no accident […] It evidences the urgent need for contemporary art to embrace the nature phenomenon as an ongoing part of the dialogue on humanity’s place in nature.”
When thinking about environmental, and earth based artworks, there is a beautiful and poetic quote by one of the fathers of earth art, Robert Smithson, who wrote: “The earth’s surface and the figments of the mind have a way of disintegrating into discrete regions of art. […] one cannot avoid muddy thinking when it comes to earth projects. One’s mind and the earth are in a constant state of erosion, mental rivers wear away abstract banks, brain waves undermine cliffs of thought, ideas decompose into stones of unknowing.”
The artists and works selected by Grande, while they share a similar lineage with artists such as Smithson, are of a different nature, in that their contemporary engagement with ephemerality and eco-sensitivity creates art work that is influenced by nature, rather than imposing influence upon nature.
Two of the projects (works by Yolande Gutteriez of Mexico and Roy Staab of America) have already been installed in the waterfowl park. Throughout the rest of the summer there will be an influx of visiting artists from across Canada, America, and Europe, arriving in Sackville to install their works in the marshes. For more information on the art works, the artists, and the events surrounding “Sculpture Sackville”, you can visit the town of Sackville website at http://www.sackville.com/culture or phone the Cultural Capitals Office at 506-364-4949.