She may call north end of Halifax home, but the woods are never far from Sarah Burwash's imagination.
"I've always been drawn to the wilderness," says the 27-year-old artist and illustrator.
Best known for her watercolour drawings of woodland clearings with playful critters, slender trees and bright-faced figures, Burwash moved to Halifax from the west coast four years ago in search of a small vibrant arts community.
She's since found herself in the most unlikely of places---the old Gatekeeper's Lodge at Point Pleasant Park. For the past three months, Burwash has been trying to bring her fantastical landscapes to life in the city's latest public art project. Burwash was chosen as the park's artist in resident, who saw the historic lodge transform into a makeshift studio. The vision for her project, she says, was to create a work that could draw people closer to nature and to re-imagine the park's wilderness with a deeper sense of adventure.
Hence the name of her project: Gates for Sojourn.
"I was thinking about this idea of being a gatekeeper," says Burwash, who was partly inspired by the large iron gates at the park's entrance. "Rather than be a gatekeeper where you reside in the park, I thought I was going to be like a gatemaker. I wanted to create my own gates throughout the park."
Her project, a series of four sculptural installations that resemble gates, will be placed carefully throughout the park in the hopes visitors will get off the beaten trail and find pleasure in exploring the pathless woods. "I think sometimes how we can interact with the wilderness can be a bit rigid," she says.
"I went into the project thinking a lot about the history of the park and now I've become more interested in how people interact with it today."
Her gate-like installations are meant to allow visitors to enter into new ways of seeing the park, Burwash says.
Because she dreams of forests filled with magic and imagination, life-sized animations of her drawings will be projected onto each installation. Animation is a new challenge for an artist who strictly works in the two-dimensional, but she says it "made sense to really activate these drawings and bring them outside the studio."
Hand-drawn illustrated maps with the locations of each installation are available for pick-up at the lodge. However, Burwash says she would rather see people stumble upon her project and be unexpectedly surprised.
In a world filled with restless commotion where people are ever-moving, she hopes visitors will slow down and pause long enough to discover regions of the park they wouldn't otherwise.
"I want people to take note of these different corners of the park you usually just walk past or run past," she says.
For her, the beauty of nature lies in the subtleties of a landscape; the texture of a rock or the sounds of a quiet sea wash against a lonely shoreline. She believes we are at a time in history where, as a culture, we must be more sensitive to the way we think about and treat the natural world.
"I'm hoping to draw questions and make people contemplate their relationship to the environment," she explains. The one-day exhibit will be unveiled on Wednesday, June 25---shortly after the summer solstice.
Burwash says it only seemed right for her project to celebrate the changing of the seasons.
"It snowed one of the first days I was there, and now its blossoming," she says with a smile.
Wednesday, June 25, 9-11pm Point Pleasant Park Social open house at 7pm, Gatekeeper’s Lodge
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