Until August 8, 2009, the Nanaimo Art Gallery, Campus Location, 900 Fifth Street, is presenting Field Recordings of Icebergs Melting by artist Michael Campbell. In this show Campbell talks about the effects of saltwater climate erosion on wood and metal. The works are created from salvaged materials that were gathered and assembled into a variety of vessels that float around the fictional ocean of the gallery floor. They make us think about the battered ships that ply our oceans and the thousands of nails that hold them together.
In Campbell’s new work we are reminded of that depression era mentality. After living through the depression, people adopted an aesthetic of thrift. Objects that were purchased were not discarded when they broke. They were repaired repeatedly. Money was in short supply and new objects and materials were scarce. Parts were fashioned out of what was on hand and could be made to work. The patched together, Jerry-rigged appearance of Campbell’s vessels remind us of that era and give Campbell’s vessels a sense of romance and nostalgia.
Campbell’s objects have a unique sense of place; they are distinctly of the North Pacific coast of Canada. On the coast, the beaches are littered with the debris common to fishing and forestry. The local practice is to move lumber from dry land to the mill by floating the logs in booms. This creates beaches littered with escaped logs. Joining the logs are chunks of broken boats, wharves, tree branches, and roots. This rich debris load gives Campbell an abundant source of working material.
Campbell works in Alberta but summers on Hornby Island. What does an Albertan artist do on those long sunny summer beach days? He processes the flotsam and jetsam dumped on the beach into an armada. Campbell makes mention in his notes about the process of constructing these vessels as one that consumes thousands of nails. Some of the vessels are sheathed in corroded sheet metal and the attachments reveal the quantity of nails used to hold the work together. Campbell also salvages metal in Alberta to add to the construction of his flotilla. Campbell must spend an inordinate amount of time beach combing as there are many strange attachments on the vessels. For more information on Field Recordings of Icebergs Melting, call 250-740-6350.