Tree Rings by Judson Beaumont

Poet W.H. Auden once remarked “A culture is no better than its woods.” This summer, VanDusen Botanical Garden, a place renowned for its collections of rare and endangered trees, will celebrate the culture of wood with a very special art exhibit, Touch Wood

Curated by Celia Duthie and Nicholas Hunt of Salt Spring Island’s Duthie Gallery, Touch Wood is a landmark exhibition of over two dozen wood sculptures and installations by prominent BC artists including Brent Comber, Michael Dennis, Alastair Heseltine and Martha Varcoe Sturdy. Touch Wood, an exhibit that explores the roots of BC’s soul, will open on June 20 and run through the end of September.
“Wood has played a significant role in the development and history of this province, indeed of Canada itself,” says Garden Director Harry Jongerden. “Wood-related industries have been the back bone of the province’s economy making possible the philanthropy that created VanDusen Botanical Garden and its Bloedel Conservatory.” Equally important, wood has been integral to BC’s artistic culture. Think of the fine art created to this day by First Nations peoples – totem and memorial poles, masks, canoes and ceremonial items.

VanDusen’s own Visitor Centre was recently internationally recognized with awards for the beauty of (and innovative approach to) its use of wood.

La Chaise #1 by Marie Khouri
[La Chaise #1 by Marie Khouri by VanDusen Botanical Garden Official Photostream, on Flickr]
Following on the success of last year’s Earth Art exhibit that featured five of the top artists in the genre, the Garden believed that a larger show, concentrating on local artists working in wood, would be well received. Many pieces are large enough to both walk around and admire from afar. Michael DennisCouncil of Elders consists of 11 figures, each towering 12 feet while Alastair Heseltine will construct a piece in situ that soars 20 feet in height and 40 feet in diameter. As a reflection of VanDusen’s environmental mandate, all the pieces in the exhibit are constructed from wood that has been salvaged, recycled, or scavenged.
Large sculptures and installations will be sited within the Garden itself, allowing visitors to enjoy the pieces surrounded by the beauty of the natural settings. Visitors’ experiences and perceptions of the art will vary with each visit as the light and surrounding vegetation changes with the weather, time of day or season. “The environment becomes part of the show. Because of the placement of the art, people see and experience the Garden in a new way,” says Mr. Jongerden. “We realized this phenomenon with the first Zimsculpt exhibit five years ago. I kept hearing from people how they saw the Garden differently thanks to the sculpture.”

All pieces will be available for purchase, with a portion of the proceeds supporting VanDusen Botanical Garden’s activities and programs.

Touch Wood banner

Touch Wood Sculpture Exhibition

Venue: VanDusen Botanical Garden, 5251 Oak Street at West 37th Avenue, Vancouver
Dates: June 20 through September 30
Admission: Adults, $10.75; Seniors/Youth 13-18, $8.00; Children 3-12, $5.75; prices include taxes

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