Chris Booth wrote the Musqueam people two months before he travelled from New Zealand to Vancouver to see whether they'd collaborate on the sculpture he was to create for the Earth Art exhibit at VanDusen Botanical Garden.
"It's always important to me, wherever I am, to work with indigenous people, even when I'm working in Wales or in Cornwall or in France or Italy, but particularly these colonized countries like New Zealand, Australia, Canada, U.S.A.," said the man who's worked extensively with Maori people in his native land on projects that include stone blankets based on Maori designs that he's "draped" over big boulders.
The Musqueam have approved his project and will hold a special ceremony to name the piece.
Booth is one of five international and local artists creating sculptural works fashioned from natural materials within VanDusen's 55 acres for an exhibit that runs until Sept. 30, but his piece is expected to unfurl over the next 30 years.
Booth arrived in Vancouver July 8, secured a front-end loader, freed spare rocks meant for seawall construction from tangles of bramble and started building his work near the Gitksan totem poles at VanDusen. Two circles of stones propped up with logs will form "petals" around a central stone protrusion in the middle of which, on the recommendation from the Musqueam, he'll plant a Western red cedar sapling.
"The whole idea of the sculpture is to celebrate fungi," Booth said. "This is actually a kinetic sculpture but no one will see it moving. It'll take 30 years to be fully realized, probably."
As the tree grows and fungi eat away at the wood, the stone petals will fall out to unfold the sculpture like a flower.
"I'm a very strong believer in trying to educate people about climate change and especially about the lesser seen and understood and known organisms on the planet," Booth said.
Local artist Nicole Dextras wants to inspire women to reconsider their clothes-buying habits with her Little Green Dress Projekt.
She's constructing 28 made-to-measure dresses for specific women of all ages and sizes who support eco-fashion.
Instead of a little black dress, Dextras believes every woman should own an item of clothing that was produced in a sustainable and equitable manner.
Her muses have supplied their own material for each organic number that bears their name.
The hem of "Cat," which Dextras was shaping Monday afternoon, drips with purple flowering butterfly bush.
The "Sharon" features a collar of mountain ash berries and magnolia buds, a bodice of sleek green, shiny rhododendron leaves fastened with thorns and trimmed with tea leaves, a stiff top skirt of straw-like grass and an under layer of autumn-hued magnolia leaves.
The creations will be worn at the exhibit's opening, Aug. 2, and then left to decay on wooden stands in the perennial garden.
"It's all about change, which was something I was trying to express for a long time in my other work, but I could never really get to it," Dextras said.
The paper sculptor and photographer started working with organic material by chance. "It snowed in Vancouver and I got locked in for two weeks and then I started, just out of a whim, freezing dresses in my backyard," said the now 56-year-old resident of Arbutus Ridge.
The other participating artists include sculptor Michael Dennis, who hails from Denman Island and often works with the detritus of the logging industry, and Nils-Udo, one of the world's foremost earth art sculptors from Bavaria who's known for his colossal nests, one of which features a child nestled within its branches on Peter Gabriel's Ovo album cover.
Urs-P. Twellmann's "Zipper" will cleave a hill on the great lawn at VanDusen. The well-known Swiss wizard with a chainsaw is carving up a 37-foot dead tree the city pulled down.
"I like to surprise people. Art sometimes can open the eyes for other things," said the man whose spiral of wood slices adorns the poster for the Earth Art exhibit.
Acclaimed curator of earth art John K. Grande favours the way environmental art, which flourished after a seminal Earthworks show in 1968 in New York City, differs from works displayed in a gallery.
"There's climate, everything around affecting you when you're walking around looking at the work and it's a tactile experience," he said. "Everyone likes the interactivity of it."
For more information, see vandusengarden.org.