A public outdoor art makeover for the alleys of a southeastern B.C. mountain town. Words :: Ned Morgan.
Revy Recycling Renaissance
Are we in a Recycling Renaissance? Certainly an alley in Revelstoke, B.C. is. Here, affixed to an otherwise drab cinder-block wall, is The Mona Skisa by Leonardo da Vinski—where the most famous work of the European Renaissance is reimagined as a sturdy, weatherproof piece of outdoor art. Specifically, an assemblage sculpture made of 126 “tiles” painstakingly cut from old skis and snowboards.
The artist is Blue Mountains, Ontario native Rob Buchanan who now resides in Revy. “Skis are very durable and each one is different,” he says. “Each cut required many tools including an angle grinder, jig saw, mitre saw, circular saw, scroll saw, belt sander, and Dremel. I blew up one table saw and burned out many, many blades. Cutting skis is ridiculously insane. I don’t know what possessed me to do it.”
Reimagining Old Skis & Snowboards
“Assemblage” is a three-dimensional medium often comprised of found objects, mounted to a resilient substrate. “In Revelstoke,” says Buchanan, “some of our most abundant objects for recycling into assemblage art are retired skis and snowboards. They were manufactured for use in harsh environments which make them very durable for long-term outdoor art. But first they need to be reimagined.”
“It’s like building a puzzle, but first you have to imagine and cut out the puzzle pieces.”
Buchanan’s re-imagining continues with another alley sculpture entitled The Girl with the P-tex Earring by Snohannes Vermeer—like the Leonardo, cut from old skis and snowboards to produce an even more startlingly accurate homage to the original work. Here Buchanan used both sides of the skis and snowboards—the P-tex bases and the topsheet graphics. “It’s like building a puzzle,” he explains, “but first you have to imagine and cut out the puzzle pieces.”
No Ceilings: Outdoor Art “Alleries”
The assemblage sculptures represent just one “wing” of Revelstoke’s “Alleries” (Alleys + Art Galleries). A group of artists including Buchanan has been populating more alleys so they resemble the halls of an art gallery. “Except these halls are outside, have no ceilings, and there are dumpsters beside the art,” Buchanan points out. He has contributed works to the assemblage and landscape wings. A photographer, a stained glass artist, and a blacksmith have contributed to other alleys. For night viewing, solar lights illuminate each work.
Art + Clean Air
“We have three more artists lined up for 2021,” Buchanan adds. “All the pieces are permanent public outdoor art fixtures.” At a time when many bricks-and-mortar art galleries are closed or hosting only small private groups, these Alleries are even more appealing. Call it a generous and always available helping of public art with all-you-can-breathe clean mountain air on the side. Pedestrians in this iconic ski/snowboard town can breathe easier now that their alleys are no longer just for dumpsters.
More on Revelstoke’s Art Alleries here.