At the Tree Museum’s outdoor exhibition of works by Toronto collective Persona Volare, one has to hike into the woods in search of artworks, some glaring, some hidden as in a treasure hunt. As we wander further from the access road my growing apprehension is abruptly transplanted by joy as I behold a shining box perched atop an expanse of exposed rock. I’ve found the treasure: an outhouse constructed entirely from mirrors. This is a marriage of high and low, reality and illusion, rustic and glitz. Like the Predator of action-movie fame it replicates its surroundings, blending almost seamlessly into the background. On a bright, sunny day it casts brilliant panels of light around itself, like a spaceship. The light and levity of the sculpture can be breathtaking.
Signs of human presence or our own bodily needs continually interrupt our experience of nature. We shift between awareness of our surroundings and awareness of our interior landscape—where will we find food, rest and relief? All is vanity, as we cannot escape these needs and desires. So as we approach the structure, we see ourselves reflected, simultaneously inside and outside the experience of nature and art. Contributing further to this paradox, you can enter the small building (only its exterior resembles an outhouse), sit down on a wooden bench, close the door and have a private moment. Hanging from the ceiling is a bunch of glowing, colourful plastic fruit (the lights are solar powered). This light sculpture is well met by the dark, enclosed space where briefly little else exists except a plastic replica of nature, indulging our very human sense of irony.
Nature can be a frightening thing. How comforting to see this familiar structure appearing before us, like a mirage. Nature then is beauty, experienced as an abstract concept. This work is a vanitas still life composed of incongruous elements that house ideas about our human condition.