SpruceRoots Magazine - November 2003

More work from the show at Dover Trail, Sandspit by Kiki and Kathy Pick


by Berry Wjideven

When you go for a walk in the forest it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the smells, the textures and shapes, by the sunlight streaking through the canopy and the gazillion shades of green. It can be stunningly beautiful, inspiring awe and reverence, but sometimes all that splendour makes it hard to appreciate some of the finer details. Sometimes it’s hard to see the trees for the forest.

Do not fear, local artists to the rescue! Kathy Pick and Kiki van der Heiden recently put an art show right back in the very nature that had inspired them. Titled Resonance of Nature, the show’s intent was to build a dialogue with nature, to make people more aware of nature and help them focus — well, sign me up!

It was a decidedly boisterous group of people that arrived at the entrance of the Dover Trail to see the show. A ferry ride on the Kwuna was more than enough to get the party started but within seconds of entering the forest a more subdued tone emerged. Nature can shut you right up! Stepping from the roadside into the forest was like stepping into a cathedral where anything beyond a whisper seems out of place. At the trailhead we were handed a map with the location of the installations and we started making our way along the trail, which gently follows Haans Creek.

I had seen some of the work in advance and I was curious how the show would turn out. The pieces were bold and strong but nature ain’t a pushover. I wondered if the art would be dominated by its surroundings or whether it would subdue nature into the role of an elaborate set piece? The answer was neither. Instead, art and nature fully complemented each other. The art, rather than dominating the landscape, acted like a portal or doorway through which you could appreciate nature’s beauty in new and different ways. We were seeing the forest for the art.

And the art was exquisite. Kiki van der Heiden’s consisted of large painted canvasses of roots, leaves, seeds and growth rings. She also created ink and bleach drawings on large sheets of velum paper. Kathy Pick’s art was more sculptural, made from materials such as leaves, moss, grass and bull kelp. It is hard to fathom how much work is involved in preparing the raw materials from which her baskets and hangings were created. Suffice to say, Kathy must be a very patient person. Her work included moss balls, mandalas, a hanging made from spidery leaf skeletons, woven baskets and a sculpture that incorporated animal bones.

The work wasn’t hung just willy-nilly, it had been placed carefully in the natural setting. The artists had created designs on the forest floor using contrasting colours and textures of natural material that created a transition between nature and art, guiding your eye and focusing your attention.

At first you’d notice the art. Then you would discover the gorgeous branch from which the art was suspended. Subsequently you’d realize that the whole tree was oddly shaped with a distinctive curve that provided a near perfect complement to the artwork it framed. Suddenly you’d spot, as if for the first time ever, the mosses on the tree, and how they provided a contrasting texture to the ferns surrounding the tree.

At times the line between man-made and nature were blurred. You would stumble across an amazing piece that, while not marked, had to be part of the show. But then you would discover that the shape and textures were actually a part of the forest and that the design and execution were nature’s doing. Once we started looking for incongruities, everything started to look interesting. Once we started looking for beauty, we found it everywhere.
While people were in awe of the art, many of the conversations along the trail focused on what the art had accomplished. How it had forced people to slow down and appreciate aspects of nature they otherwise likely wouldn’t have noticed. How they would never be able to look at the forest in the same way.

On the walk back to the highway, back to civilization, we watched in silence as the fall leaves fell slowly into the murmuring water of the creek. It provided a stunning context for the art gently submerged in the forest. It couldn’t have been more beautiful. It may have been perfect. •