On Aug. 24, over 40 people huddled under the shelter at Borden Park to wait out the storm that turned a balmy afternoon into a cold, wet gale. They were there to meet some of Edmonton’s most prolific women sculptors whose 11 pieces of artwork are installed in various locations of the park.
The free event was open to all and was the first of a three-part series of public art events Edmonton Arts Council (EAC) is organizing. Funding for the project comes from the City of Edmonton’s Percent for Art policy that allots one per cent of the capital budget for free and accessible art for all.
David Turnbull, the host and EAC director of public art and conservation, invited participants to enjoy free hot dogs and refreshments while waiting for the rain to stop.
“This transitory art display,” stated Turnbull as he began the tour, “was completed in July of 2017. The pieces will remain in Borden Park for two years.”
Agnieszka Koziarz, born in Poland, uses steel to illustrate the themes of displacement and disorientation felt by people immigrating to a new country. Her massive monolithic creations imbue the rigid metal with the fluidity of clay and the delicacy of lace as she draws the viewer’s eyes on a journey of human transition and adaptation.
Koziarz was unable to attend, so Turnbull passed on her message.
“Being part of this exhibition is profoundly meaningful for me. It emphasized the significance and potential to establish roots as an immigrant in Canada. It was the instruction, support, and guidance of strong female artists who believed in me that fostered my work as a sculptor.”
The tour moved next to Sandra Bromley’s three sculptures. In her presentation, Bromley credited her years in London in the 1970s as expanding her social political awareness and influencing her to use wood as her medium.
“London is a centre for global knowledge, and the Kew Royal Botanic Gardens became my serendipitous global source of wood specimens,” said Bromley.
Her three pieces, Gun Blue, Revolution, and Night Rider, finished with oil and graphite powder pigment, fit well in Borden Park. “I’m happy to have this exhibit in [complementary] relation to the big trees here.”
A young girl asked, “How did you make them?” Bromley beamed as she described her assortment of tools, from large power saws and winches to minute chisels.
Turning to Night Rider, she told the girl, “See that log at the bottom? That’s where I started.” Meanwhile, five other children were running around the piece, hiding and peeking out from behind. “This is perfect!” Bromley said. “I want people to touch my work, to interact with it.”
At the formal garden, Susan Owen Kagan described her 2005 trio of concrete with steel pieces as a series.
“I wanted them to be fanciful, pleasant to the eye. I started with casting the concrete forms; two hockey helmets in Diablo Boys, an urn in another. The sculptures evolved as I went along. Each of them, Whirly Bird, Diablo Boys, and Mandarin Flip, is designed as a display on a table, like a still life.” Kagan’s pieces are luminous, delicate and shapely, a juxtaposition of deep brown steel and creamy concrete.
Kasie Campbell’s works arise from her time as artist-in-residence at the City of Edmonton’s Kennedale facility, where she worked side-by-side with park maintenance staff. “My presence there showed that artists do real physical work, too. I use wire fencing, concrete fibre, nylon stockings, rope, and fabric.” Campbell’s achievement with Beached Bodies and Endless Adaptations is a fluid translucence on the concrete suggesting a gelatinous fleshy surface.
“For me the experience of having my work shown alongside these experienced, diverse and strong women artists has been surreal. They serve as mentors and allow me to believe that there is a place for our vision in the public arena.”
The rain moves in again and the participants move on.
Featured Image: Participants attend a public art event where they had an opportunity to meet the artists who created the sculptures. | Aydan Dunnigan-Vickruck