In this piece, I set out to find order and design with nature. It included several components including gathering, organizing, and installing. Ever since I began going to camp several years ago, I have worked more and more with the outdoor world by collecting natural materials and compiling them to create art and crafts. A couple of years ago, I became inspired by the site specific work of Andy Goldsworthy, an environmental sculptor. Goldsworthy uses natural surroundings and materials to explore, experiment, and create art. In the past, he has used leaves, stones, wood, sand, ice, and snow to create art within the natural landscape. As a result, the seasons and weather play an important role and determines what materials Goldsworthy will use at a given time. His work reinforces the relationship between humans and nature as we interact on a daily basis. Humans are very similar to nature in that we both go through growth stages and later decay. While we may battle daily headaches and stress, the environment is faced with storms. While humans can control nature by rearranging natural materials, in the end, nature takes over and shapes us. Site specific work also known as environmental art, earth art, and land art is constructed with natural materials whether it be directly in nature or not. Because it is art using natural materials, it is a part of a cycle that grows, stays, and decays. By taking the opportunity and time to work with nature, one can further understand and appreciate the environment and all that it has to offer.
I have always been a nature enthusiast, and I was excited to work with nature’s surroundings and materials. I started off this piece brainstorming a bunch of potential ideas and thinking about what materials I wanted to use. I kept coming back to the idea of collecting materials and bringing them inside to be arranged with the intentions of later possibility placing my sculpture back outside in nature. After making a list of potential materials, I headed out on an adventure around Victoria, BC to see what I could find. I based my sculpture mainly around materials that would hold their shape and last longer such as rocks and wood compared to other materials that are likely to decompose quicker such as leaves. This way, I would be able to keep the finished product for a long time if I choose to do so. On my adventure, I found a variety of materials collecting handfuls of twigs, rocks, and pinecones among other materials. I decided to construct my sculpture using a wide variety of materials with the intention of generating a range of feelings.
When I started to sketch out my design intentions, it was beginning to remind me of a microscopic view of an animal cell. When I began to organize my materials, various components started to form similar to how a cell is made up of a variety of parts each serving a specific function. As the parts of my sculpture came together, they started to interact and tell a story. I carefully planned and constructed my sculpture to represent a dense gathering around a fire. I always remind myself and those around me at camp that there was an art to building a campfire and this was an opportunity to construct a camp-like setting connecting the four elements of the earth together. My design included a log cabin/tepee campfire in the centre of a piece of drift wood with a family of inuksuit circled around the fire. Not only does my sculpture connect the four elements of the earth together, but it also represents a social gathering of people characterized by rock figures. The rock figures are contained by a fence and surrounding trees making it quaint and personable. My intent was to construct a small setting to be placed within the larger natural world. When I placed my sculpture in a park along a gravel path, the context was set as this gathering place I had created stood alone within the larger community.
I am big on camping and enjoy studying the Native culture and their close connection with the land as depicted in my sculpture. The inuksuit in my sculpture connect the native people as they were the first ones to use the figure to mark trails, embody spirit and represent strength. The placement of the inuksuit in my sculpture characterizes a circle of friends giving off a sense of community and sharing a common purpose. The circle links to the cycle of life connecting the earth back to the people as we grow up and age. I purposely made the inuksuit various sizes to demonstrate the individual strength of each and everyone and label them as a family. This gathering around the fire represents a celebration of nature’s offerings as the figures reflect on the elements of the earth as they relate to a campfire. Each element has a significant connection to the setting: The earth element offers the kindling that will fuel the fire; The water element offers the water that will be used to douse the ambers following the fire; The air element offers the oxygen to fuel the flame; and The fire element offers the spark that will ignite the fire.
The construction of my piece led me to the awareness of a few sensuous aspects which have contributed to the overall experience. While I was gathering materials, I began to respond to the materials. For instance, I may have seen something visually from a distance that I thought would work, and sure enough when I approached it, I felt it would work out good for my sculpture. While I was at a beach looking for the perfect piece of driftwood, I noticed a piece from the distance only to approach it and take it away with me. Texture became a huge component of the experience. Not only when collecting materials, but also when I was planning and later constructing my actual piece. Texture gives off different feelings when touched. In my sculpture, I have incorporated a wide range of rough and smooth textures. In doing so, I have balanced my sculpture and added various dimensions which give off a different feeling depending on the angle it is viewed at. The sense of smell also played a role while I was rounding up materials. Nature gives off all kinds of smells and on two occasions I had picked up a leaf and a pinecone only to place it back down as it was decaying, giving off a distinct smell. It was not long before the smells of nature became inscribed within the sculpture.
Through the construction of my sculpture, the livelihood has been brought back to the materials. The fire which is made from once living trees, have been combined to create a new life. Likewise, the pinecones that had fallen and picked off the ground, have been added to my sculpture, creating a sense of life and representing short and tall trees. The arrangement of the natural materials have come together to illustrate several elements and principles of art. Elements in my work include space, line, colour, and form. Space plays a dominant role in how the inuksuit are situated in a circular fashion around the fire in relation to all other components of my sculpture. I have created my sculpture with pretty equal distance from one thing to the next. I have used the space of the piece of driftwood in a fulfilling way without over cluttering the space. As for line, the inuksuit in a circular formation help to guide the viewer around the sculpture from one end to the other. The colour of my sculpture is mainly different shades of brown with the greys of the inuksuit standing out along with the green leaves situated under the sculpture. When set on a light surface such as a gravel path or a white table top, the sculpture really comes to life and stands out. Colour also helps to create an illusion of depth in my sculpture by going from darker to lighter shades of stones within each individual inuksuk. Form has been created by the fusion of various shapes enhanced by tone, texture, and choice of colour. In this case, form has been constructed with the choice of materials.
As for the principles of art, balance, contrast, repetition, and unity are evident in my work. The balance of my sculpture is for the most part symmetrical as one side has been created quite similar to the other side. As a result, the viewer will not get lost within it and his/her eyes will travel throughout the whole structure. Balance is also evident by the use of similar materials throughout. As for contrast, the dark colours contrast with the lighter ones. Also there is a good contrast between the use of smaller rocks making up the fire ring and bigger rocks which make up the inuksuit. Repetition is created through the placement of rocks and twigs as they repeat throughout the whole structure from one side to the next. The recurrence of line, colour, shape, and value can be seen. Lastly, Unity is reached through the careful placement of the materials used in my sculpture creating a unified piece. Placing the inuksuit in an organized way further helps to create rhythm and overall visual appeal.
Whether my sculpture sits as a centre piece on a table or is brought outside, anyone who sees it will be connected to the natural world and may feel as if they are in fact a part of the circle. This piece allowed me to work with the elements of nature. It has also allowed me to work with the principles and elements of art to produce a visually satisfying artwork. In addition, this project has strengthened my appreciation for our natural environment and our responsibility to maintain it. This summer when I continue to work with children at camp, I will further promote our relationship with nature by having them create structures and pieces of art using natural, found materials on the beach and deep in the forest. This in turn will allow them to become more familiar with nature and appreciate the wealth in their surroundings by using natural materials to create a work of art!