Salt Spring Island, the largest of the Gulf of Georgia islands stretching from northern Washington to British Columbia, is described as the jewel of the Southern Gulf Islands. Located off the east coast of Vancouver Island, Salt Spring is home to a large colony of artists and artisans. It is particularly renowned for its stone masons and fine woodworkers.
Continuing through the summer and early fall, an innovative sculpture project has been created by Celia Duthie and Nicholas Hunt of Salt Spring Woodworks Gallery. The joint venture showcases work in two adjacent locations by artists from Salt Spring Island and British Columbia.
The sculpture garden at Hastings House is open by appointment to the public through arrangements with Salt Spring Woodworks Gallery. There is also a 1.5 kilometre public sculpture trail that can be accessed from Churchill Road above Hastings House.
Visitors travelling from the Long Harbour ferry to the town of Ganges will glimpse a startling installation in a pasture at the intersection of Upper Ganges and Churchill Road. Clad in cape-like wraps fashioned from red car hoods, The Gatherers by Denman Islands Michael Dennis, guest feature artist, is a capricious lineup of nine figurative artworks ranging from five to eight feet. Like ancient warriors coming over the hill, the striking figures inspire a mix of trepidation, curiosity and amusement.
At the entrance to the Hasting House drive, visitors are greeted by Michael Dennis Sentinel, a tall figurative sculpture carved from natural red cedar that is both welcoming and vigilant. In the distant field can be seen another series of his work: Redheads, a line of blackened cedar figures with metal heads resembling exotic women in wild headgear or a new and curious species of barnyard life.
Kathy Venter, Here and There, terra cotta and hydrostone sculpture
Six additional art pieces are installed at Hastings House, which was built between 1900 and 1940 as a working farm on 22 lush acres of gardens, meadowland and forest. It is now home to the Hastings House Country House Hotel. The property echoes the charm and elegance of an English country manor with its luxurious flower beds, gently sweeping lawns and winding walkways, complete with wishing well and sunlit terraces overlooking the Ganges harbour.
The open-faceted form of Nike by Michael Dennis conjures up the Winged Victory of Samothrace. Dennis Nike, referring to the Greek goddess of wind, it was originally shaped from cedar and then cast in bronze. The colossal grey sculpture, like an ancestral shadow, is prominently located outside the Manor House in the shade of an enormous red cedar tree.
Nearby stands Sandstone & Red Brick Pillar by Ron Crawford, a master stonemason and noted painter on the island. The towering structure, complete with capstone, was hand-built for the Sculpture Garden from hundreds of carefully selected stones.
Ghost Salmon by Paul Burke, from the Blue Horse Folk Art Gallery on Salt Spring Island, consists of three saucy, slightly iridescent hand-carved salmon on plinths climbing the lawn in front of the harbour. A lone figure is seated at the crest of the hill: Here & Here, a sand-blasted terra cotta and hydrostone sculpture by Salt Springs Kathy Venter.
Reminiscent of abrased figurative art from the early Greeks, the serene piece has beautiful hand and face details. A third installation, Ponticus, by the islands mad metalsmith Michael Robb, mixes salvaged metals welded and molded into a mysterious figure evoking a moose-like creature or the Egyptian jackal Anubis. In a nearby garden is Pas de Deux, a whimsical pair of child-sized bronze chairs by Vancouver sculptor Peter Pierobon that are finished with a green patina and tipped off balance as if tussling.
In the mossy forest above Hastings House, guests are invited to walk along cedar bark paths where outdoor site sculptures using natural and found materials have been built. The public sculpture trail is a developing exhibit that will have pieces of art added throughout the season.
One of the most interesting pieces is Rewind/Fast Forward, a fictional archeological dig by Salt Spring artists Illtyd Perkins and Nicholas Hunt. It combines pottery shards from the work of local artists with objects unearthed nearby from a former dump site they describe as a late colonial midden. Complete with historical display boards and digging tools, the conceptual work is ironic and whimsical.
Salt Spring Woodworks, a gallery of fine furniture and outdoor sculpture, is owned by Celia Duthie and Nicholas Hunt. Specializing in the decorative arts in wood, they show and represent many of the best furniture makers, woodworkers, joiners and turners in British Columbia.
The constantly changing collection includes country, folk and rustic pieces by artists like Jim Barker, Wes Giesbrecht and West Coast design company Button Design, and exquisite one-of-a-kind and limited-edition fine and studio furniture by artists like Judson Beaumont and Illtyd Perkins. They also exhibit a lively collection of paintings and sculptures by Salt Spring artists.
Closeby is a massive project by UBC M.F.A. graduate Susanna Kong. Taken from her 2007 Salvage exhibition, the towering piece is suggestive of Smithsons Spiral Jetty. Around the bend on a trail below, Stefanie Denzs Ascension climbs the trees. Using pieces of metal screen tied with wire cables in ascending staggered layers, she extends her belief in the environment as interchangeable with what occupies it.
Denzs delicate touch can also be seen in her ephemeral paintings at the Salt Spring Woodworks Gallery. At the top of the trail, two pillars made of long willow branches form Vessels constructed by Melanie Thompson and Steve Paterson.
Placed near the trail opening on Churchill Road is Act of Faith by Ron Crawford. The hanging rock, suspended from trees far above the path, both entices and dares visitors to enter the sculpture trail and begin their exploration.