This summer, an open call for igNIGHT was posted by the Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo. igNIGHT is a 10 day temporary public art exhibition of illuminated artworks with this year's theme of Canada 150. I love art installations and find myself dreaming up all sorts of wild ideas - but with no place to install them (or a lack of a budget to make it happen in the first place.) So, I was excited to see a local opportunity and began to dream and ask questions and research and budget. My friend and colleague, Liana Wheeldon came alongside me in the journey and we were thrilled to bring this idea to life.
Wanting an accessible and playful way to approach the Canada 150 theme, we created a 5' x 8' beaver lodge, complete with illuminated beaver lanterns. The entire structure was surrounded by 8 interpretive panels with all sorts of fun and crazy beaver facts and lovely sketches created by Liana. We amalgamated our skill sets and got to work! Home, Sweet Home (or my nickname for it: Beaverville) was the culmination of construction, sculpture and assemblage I love the finishing touches of the wicker patio lights - those beavers are good decorators!
I took on the construction elements, using 2x2's to organically create the beaver lodge frame. I loved the minimalism of the frame just as it was and will have to revisit this process for another project. The lodge is constructed in 3 sections so that we could transport it separately and have access inside for the lighting elements. Thankfully, we had the gracious support of friends who offered up their garage and driveway so we could continue the process in a sheltered location. We gathered fallen branches from the surrounding forest and selected the best ones to cover the frame - systematically pre-drilling and attaching them, creating a bit of a puzzle as it all came together. The inside was covered with outdoor fabric to ensure that we had the light diffused enough to allow the lodge to glow at night.
Each of us created our own beaver lanterns, starting with moulds we made of plastic, cardboard, tape and newspaper. The moulds were then covered with vellum and rice paper using a papier mache technique. I lovingly named mine Buckeye and Bernadette (and Beavis for the tail sticking out of the water). ;) Lights were installed inside each beaver and they were attached to both the lodge and the frame. A lighting dress rehearsal took place late one night to ensure that everything had power and all the cords had their place in the crazy maze underneath. Planning, executing, tweaking, planning some more, tweaking some more... all a part of the day to day work to make all the details work together. Countless hours were spent at each stage and I can certainly attest to having learned a great deal through it all.
Creating a design and proposal on paper naturally leads to some oversights in details and the troubleshooting became an integral part of the artistic process. Taking the bones of the proposal and bringing it to 3-dimensional life meant that we were constantly experimenting and refining elements of the design, making the project stronger as we progressed. There were many challenges (including having to install in the pouring rain and frigid temperatures) and the timeframe was intense but we completed our project! We were over the moon to share our blood, sweat and tears with the community and even more thrilled to watch how people interacted with our beaver friends.
One of my favourite elements was the use of nature sounds so, in the dark, you were transported from the middle of the city to the peaceful beaver world filled with creaking toads and quacking ducks and even the sound of the beavers splashing in the water. The temporal nature of our project also pointed to the ever-changing natural environment around us and the importance of the process.