tofino art: they are beyond mentioning

They Are Beyond Mentioning

by George Patterson, Tofino


One of the ideas behind Tofino Botanical Gardens is that the garden is an interface between culture and nature. This makes the garden an ideal place to present art and we have made an effort over the past four years to show a wide variety of work produced by local and not so local artists. Sculpture has become one of our main focuses.

About a month ago, Meghan Barton, a recent graduate of Mount Alison University in New Brunswick, approached me to see if we would be interested in having an installation of a piece she had recently completed.

Barton’s sculpture “They Are Beyond Mentioning” has been shown across Canada over the past six months, hung in a disparate variety of venues. The sculpture has, literally, travelled and performed its magic from coast to coast. Barton’s own words describe some of the ideas behind her project, but also say much about the meaning of sculpture in public places:

I associate plastic knives with nostalgic memories, and have developed a rather abstract relationship wit them. There is an obsessive interest I associate with their function in my life, and in our society.

The knives represent an accepted part of our world that can be paralleled to a rather plastic reality, themes of consumption, and our throw away culture. Through its identity as sculpture it is quite beautiful and graphic. It has the ability to transcend simple language, and it is this familiarity that is so intrinsic to the piece.

The sculptures of the knives are each 27 lbs of paraffin wax, which is very similar to the texture of plastic. They were poured into a two part mold, with an internal skeleton of wire. They are each 5’9”, the size of the average man, and mimic the proportions of an actual plastic knife.

I see a connection one can make with this simple utensil in a public space. I feel the sculptures themselves are quite classical, and their large scale will engage viewers. The mixing of shadows cast from the pace, the sculpture and the viewer dance together to create an interesting energy. They could travel across the country, hang in restaurants, public libraries, shopping malls, office spaces, and bus stations. As this work has developed I am slowly realizing the interaction of the viewers is as much the art piece as the sculpture itself. The idea that people can interact with something they recognize, but question at the same time will create a sort of performance.

The documentation of this work will be crucial to the final stage of the piece. With the use of black and white, and colour photography along with video documentation, audio journals, and endless sketches and text entries I hope to document the response s of an unknowing audience, while also poking fun at my own egocentric need to present my work and the growing theory that I am a tourist within my own project.

I am also enjoying watching people engage the sculpture. They look, touch and smell; squint to see the light passing through the wax, caress them to feel and understand the smoothness of the wax. An affection and respect develops in the viewer for the simple familiar form. They are humourous, poignant, unpretentious, dignified, friendly, perplexing and, ultimately, transcendent. That is, they are very good art. Barton was pleased with the reception the knives have received at tbg and has kindly decided to leave them here. They were her traveling companions on a six month odyssey across Canada, had become good friends and leaving them behind was not an easy thing.

Fortunately, Meghan Barton will be returning to be Artist in Residence at Tofino Botanical Gardens in October. Her time here will be dedicated to creating landscape sculpture and connecting to the local art community.

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Tofino art installation: George Patterson of Tofino Botanical Gardens writes about Meghan Barton's sculpture of giant plastic knives in Tofino.

tofino time july 2004

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