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Meet The Artist: Lindsay Kirker

In Lindsay Kirker's Constructing the Intangible, urban construction sites become visual metaphors to represent our intrinsic connection with nature and need for innovation. As an artist, Kirker has worked with scientists on ideating different languages we can use in our approach to the environment and climate change.

Constructing the Intangible opens on January 16 in the first floor atrium.

What pulled you to make this series of “dreamscapes,” as you call them?

One day I was suddenly drawn to construction. I became obsessed with the structures of buildings and my phone was only filled with only images of scaffolding. I wasn’t aware immediately afterwards, but looking back I see that this was because of a traumatic event I was going through at the time. Through this incident I lost two friends and it felt as though everything I thought in me to be true fell apart. I began seeing my sudden attraction to construction sites as a metaphor for rebuilding.

At first, I wanted to understand what it means to rebuild the foundations of a belief system, but that extended outwards into a bigger question of how we treat each other and how we treat nature. During this time, I became really disconnected with people around me but became drawn to the environment, climate change and how we were affecting both. We were building in a way that was disconnected from nature even though the research shows that we’re happier when we’re surrounded by green infrastructure. I had this moment where I realized we have this energy that flows through all of us. It flows through all of life: the mountains, the oceans and through us. So, if we’re building in a way that is disconnected from all of that, then we’re also disconnected from our inner nature.

You mention that these pieces are a way of making sense of the world. At the same time, there’s spaciousness in your work that suggests we could also be imagining what could be. Would you say there’s an invitation here to do that?

I’d say that’s exactly it. We’re living in a time where we’re all reflecting on our sense of place for different reasons, whether social, political or environmental. For that to happen, we need space. There needs to be a way we can all bring our different perspectives.

Perspective is a big theme in Constructing the Intangible. How can we start exercising this sense?

I think it starts with places we pass on a daily basis that we don’t think about. In Kelowna, the building I live in is under a lot of development. There’s a lot of concrete. I became really fascinated with these spaces and saw that they plant trees, then encapsulate them in these concrete squares so that the trees can only grow a certain height. That raised so many questions about how we need to have this control over nature.

It’s difficult to talk about our connection with nature without taking climate change into consideration. How has it influenced your work?

Before moving to the Okanagan, I travelled every summer to visit my grandparents and year after year, I saw these huge fires. The valley felt like you were living on Mars, almost apocalyptic. I became really concerned with it. As I started working with scientists, I realized that climate change is a symptom of our disconnect to nature. When you don’t drive down the clear cuts or the tar sands, everything is out of sight and out of mind. I just don’t buy that we’re okay with that.

At the same time, my feeling that we are disconnected from nature was intuitive, so I felt I needed to learn more. I did an exchange program in the Yukon where we studied the landscape as an interconnected system. In order to understand how a forest regenerates after a fire, for example, we also had to take into account species that migrate to the area, extreme weather patterns and how other cross-scale interactions affect an ecosystem. I was the only artist on this trip. Every night, when we'd get together it showed me that we had many differences: language, problem solving methods, approach. But climate change is so complex that it requires there to be room at the table for all perspectives to even begin to understand the situation we’re in.

What do you hope people walk away from your art believing?

That there is room for more than the rational mind can make sense of.

What's art got to do with science?

At Science World, we believe that science parallels art as a subject matter and a source of inspiration. Take a moment to experience the featured works by local artists, including Lindsay Kirker, who use their brushes, pencils, cameras, and code to tell stories about science and nature.