WAG Campers Work with Nature

Authored by: Gabriel Hurley on August 2, 2012

The WAG is within walking distance of many public parks, all of which provide pleasant places to eat lunch and escape the midday heat. The parks, however, require constant upkeep to maintain their grassy lawns. Winnipeg artist Ewa Tarsia calls attention to this fact in her new installation at the Gallery; our natural environments are actually highly contrived. They exist almost despite the forces of nature, against which we must combat if we are to maintain our natural/unnatural oases.

The theme of our WAG Summer Art Camp last week was Animals and Nature, and I wanted our campers to attempt art that worked in concert with nature rather than against it. To do this, we turned to the art of Andy Goldsworthy, a British sculptor and photographer. Goldsworthy situates himself within a natural environment and tries to understand the patterns and forms. The work that he does emphasizes the patterns already present his environment. The beauty present in his work comes from the mathematical/geometrical laws that embed themselves in nature. Goldsworthy simply articulates what is there. Because of this, the eventual decay of his work is not a hostile force, but an integral part of the natural beauty that he seeks to elaborate. 

Our campers took a trip to South Point, the less-developed part of  The Forks, in which they could explore the natural setting and begin to look for patterns. Unfortunately, my plan was complicated by the fact that someone had mowed down many of the natural plants that had been there a couple weeks ago. Despite this setback, the children enthusiastically set to work, although some suddenly realised – in the middle of the forest – that they had to go to the washroom. One group noticed a pile of large rocks, and began to examine their shapes and colour variations.

Another group chose to explore the riverbank. Protected from the sunlight and often submerged by the river, the riverbank rarely has a chance to grow any grass. Instead, the mud is crisscrossed by crevices that converge and diverge along the river. The campers noticed many fallen twigs along the river, and decided to make a miniature twig forest that followed the path of the cracks in the mud. Other campers found some logs and tree limbs that had lost all of their bark. They moved these smooth pieces of wood into a grassy area and emphasized the shapes of the logs by placing them on top of rocks and burdock leaves.

If you would like to visit the children’s sculptors, you can stop by at South Point. I cannot promise that they will look the same as in the photos; as with Goldsworthy’s work, the children’s sculptures are subject to the forces of decay.

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