Park exhibit blends art with nature

September 25, 2013

Ramble_bramble_story_picWhen Leslie Sharpe noticed a tree marked with red paint just off the beaten path in Whitemud Park, she was intrigued.

Drawn to exploring the space beyond the marked tree, she followed the subtle off-shoot pathway that led past it. What the chair of MacEwan University’s Fine Art program discovered next was a culvert, a creek, some beautiful resting spots – and the location for her latest art installation.

“I like paths that show how people use spaces outside their official purpose; and how the new paths that they create demonstrate people’s interest in how space is designated or used,” she explains.

Project seeks ways to blend art with nature

Leslie’s installation, “Redpath/Lookout,” is one of seven environmentally inspired installations that form Ramble in the Bramble, a transitory public art exhibit that spans one kilometre of the Whitemud Park walking path and runs until September 27.

Earlier this summer, the Edmonton Arts Council invited local artists to use recycled and found materials to create works of art that could coexist with the natural environment of the park. Leslie’s interest and recent work in the movements and land use of animals and humans drew her to the project.

Public art in a different way

“Artists and the public benefit from an organization like the Edmonton Arts Council," says Leslie. "EAC has such a range of projects within the city’s communities and gives artists the opportunity to reach other audiences or work in spaces outside of the gallery system,” she says.

Her installation includes two bird blinds, clay nests and related imagery along the secondary path, with birds and bird flight patterns as a unifying theme. She used materials such as recycled clay and wood and reused T-shirts to create her installation, and made a hash tag (#ramblebirds) to encourage path-walkers to tweet about the birds and animals they see.

Alumni part of the ramble

Two of the university’s Fine Art alumni also created art installations for Ramble in the Bramble. Sherri Chaba’s installation, “axis mundi,” is dedicated to her father Alex. “He taught me the nuances of nature along with an appreciation for the biodiversity of our natural landscape,” she says.

By creating a “sort of sanctuary” for viewers, Sherri wanted to emphasize the importance of preserving areas like the park. “To protect and preserve parkland is to believe in our true and natural capital,” she explains. “My work speaks to the significance of parkland spaces and how they can represent a sustainable future.”

Tiffany Shaw-Collinge used her experience of transition between Edmonton and her current city of Los Angeles as inspiration for her installation, “Fox Farm HQ.”

“The more I walked the trail the more I wanted to provide the viewer with another perspective that they might not anticipate,” says Tiffany. “‘The Headquarters’ highlights two viewpoints of the ravine and the Fox Farm, allowing people to sit collectively or individually along the steps. The orientation of the steps not only allows for a view but it also indicates to people passing by that there are options of relaxing depending on where you sit.”

An appreciation of place

As Leslie explains, public art projects such as this offer a unique experience for the artists and community involved.

“The chance to work in nature is something really unusual,” she says. “For artists, it’s a tremendous opportunity to think of other ways of working. It’s transitory, so you’re working with the intent that it’s about experience much more than the object.”

And for the community, Leslie says Ramble in the Bramble is essentially a reminder of place.

“I think we’re very lucky to have places like Whitemud Park in Edmonton. In trying to temporarily enhance these spaces, and to draw attention to things that are there, hopefully we’ll bring the audience back to an appreciation of place.”

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