The Artist’s Garden Project at KAG

Artistic garden work in the outdoor courtyard at the Kelowna Art Gallery has things to grow up, things to throw out.

Garden Project in the Rotary Courtyard at the Kelowna Art Gallery.

Even if gardens are not your cup of tea, when you come to visit the current artist’s garden project at the Kelowna Art Gallery, you will doubtless agree on who would love this year’s commission—good old Oscar the Grouch from Sesame Street. This garden is urban, grungy, and full of trash!

Vernon-based mother-and-son team Carolina Sanchez de Bustamante and Maxwell Sterry wanted to focus on the issue of the environment for their year-long garden installation, and to subtly draw our attention to the volume of materials that are dumped daily into the landfill.

Animating the Gallery’s open-air Rotary Courtyard space are three tall columns, delineated with strands of fishing line and strung up with brightly-coloured spheres made from clean trash. These bits of junk have been painted in red, orange or yellow, and then grouped by colour. At the base of each column trash has been piled up and spray painted as well, and viewers come to notice the trash has been sorted, so that the shortest column (red) has rubber and computer trash, the middle one (orange) has metals, and the tallest one (yellow) has plastic. When the breeze moves through the space a gentle and pleasant pinging sound is produced by the trash bits knocking together.

On the sides of the space the artists have planted plastic bins that have been sprayed with yellow, orange and red in a graffiti-like style with fruit- and vegetable-bearing plants. The bins are self-irrigating so require minimal watering. Rustic seating consisting of pieces of wood spanning the gap between plastic bins completes the rough-and-ready look of the installation.

This is the third incarnation of the Kelowna Art Gallery’s Artist’s Garden Project. Each commission extends for a year in duration, from one spring season planting time to the next. Every project is accompanied and documented by a web-based publication available on the Gallery’s website.

Humans have expressed their personal and cultural values through gardens for millennia. This aspect of the history of garden design—how a garden embodies and reflects the philosophies and metaphysics of its time and culture—is incredibly fascinating. Visitors are invited to muse on the inner-city, grunge style of Sanchez de Bustamante and Sterry’s installation (titled Pieces of What) and its connection to their theme of environmental awareness. Both artists have backgrounds in architecture and design, which is clearly reflected in their overall approach to this project.

The Artist’s Garden Project: Carolina Sanchez de Bustamante and Maxwell Sterry: Pieces of What will remain on view at the Kelowna Art Gallery until the Spring of 2016.