Chilliwack artist Sylvie Roussel-Janssens depicts the growing tension between creeping urbanization and wildlife habitat in her new project, Turf Wars.
The sculptural installation for windows can be viewed at the Great Blue Heron Nature Reserve for a special Earth Day celebration on Saturday, April 23, and the artist will be on-site to meet the public from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
It was a nature walk that she took along the scenic Vedder Rotary Trail one fine spring day that became the catalyst for the creation of Turf Wars.
“This local trail is a place to relax, and it’s shared by many people, their pets and by wildlife. But that day there were military helicopters flying in circles over my head, probably performing training manoeuvres above the base.”
The Steller’s jays were calling to each other cheekily as they circled.
“They are always there. I thought, ‘How do they feel about that disturbance today? This is their territory.’”
As she walked along, the loud crack of gunfire from the gun range also filled the air.
“By then, I felt that the noise was an assault on my space and on the wildlife around me. As I arrived at the end of the trail by the Vedder bridge, I saw an endless row of gravel trucks.”
That feeling stayed with her long after.
“It had been a few years since I made a project specifically inspired by environmental issues,” she mused. “That spring day, I decided to explore the idea of territorial conflict between Man and nature.”
The window installation features seven animals in all, and the project involves more than 100 red and black fabric panels attached to the glass with suction cups.
“With a bit of irony, Turf Wars shows how uneven the territorial battle between Man and the natural world is,” she writes in her artist statement about the work.
Roussel-Janssens is often deeply inspired by her frequent walks, hikes and bike rides around the picturesque Fraser valley, and the pieces she’s creating are increasingly drawn from her own personal mythology.
She selected emblematic B.C. endangered species for Turf Wars like the Giant Pacific salamander, and the spotted owl, as well as creatures like the heron, salmon, duck, caribou and Stellar’s Jay.
“By reversing the scale of the animal in relation to its environmental threat, I catch the viewer’s attention.”
Depicted inside each animal image is the major environmental threat they face across Western Canada and the North, such as the logging barge inside the salmon or the agricultural chemicals inside the salamander.
“With the tar sands, logging and overfishing, it all affects wildlife,” she said. “That can be touchy for some, and lots of people make a living exploiting our natural resources. It’s not all bad, but we have to start becoming more aware of the effects of these practices.”
The Montreal-born artist graduated with honours from the Emily Carr University of Art and Design, specializing in sculpture.
She shows her work frequently, and over the years has honed her techniques, making sculptural installations, as well as her complex and ephemeral light sculptures, fashioned from fabric and wire, and lit from within.
Turf Wars will be on display at GBNHR from April 23 to May 1.
Tomorrow morning starting at 10 a.m. Roussel-Janssens will be at the Heron Nature Reserve in person to meet visitors, art-lovers and Earth Day Celebration participants. She’ll be performing demonstrations of the fabric-burning technique used in Turf Wars. She used a soldering iron to burn tiny holes into fabric to create the designs.
Some extra window panels will also be available for sale for $60 each, with partial proceeds going to the GBHNR foundation.
Along with the art opening, there will also be endangered species-related craft activities, and guided walks at the Nature Reserve site to help people re-connect with nature.
Herons are sitting on eggs in the rookery at this time of year, and some may even be visible on-screen inside the Rotary Interpretive Centre from nest cams.
For more info about the event, call 604-823-6603 or go to chwkblueheron.com