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campus building with cyclists going by
September 25, 2017
3 mins read

Hidden in Plain Sight: Art, mindfulness, and the rainy city

Hidden in Plain Sight

In first year, I found UBC totally dazzling. I’m from Manitoba, so this campus, with its stunning natural features and beautiful buildings and grounds, was a shift from the wide open spaces I grew up with.

Since then, I feel like I’ve lost those fresh eyes that took in everything campus has to offer. I am starting my fifth year and don’t get me wrong, I still love UBC; it’s just that the thrill I used to feel when I looked over the Rose Garden has sort of worn off.

My time on campus is now spent worrying about if I’m going to have to detour around construction and wondering if I have time to grab a coffee before my next class. It’s become too easy to walk around with my rain hood up and my head down, rarely noticing the things that got me so excited when I first came here. In my final year as a UBC student, I’d like to be more invested in appreciating the place I’ve come to call home.

This post touches on the willful beauty and the outdoor art of UBC. There’s a lot of it, and noticing it is a great way to get back to recognizing and appreciating our unique campus. For my yogis out there, it’s an awesome route to mindfulness and being present.

Wood for the People by Myfanwy MacLeod

Wood for the People installation

Let’s start with Myfanwy MacLeod’s Wood for the People. This is a piece you may have noticed, but probably haven’t realized deserves your attention. It’s not the sculpture itself that’s so striking, but the idea behind it.  

When I first saw it, I literally thought Wood for the People was a pile of wood stacked up next to the Belkin gallery for...art, presumably. Turns out, MacLeod’s work is pretty cool. The sculpture is actually made out of 214 individual pieces of concrete, all shaped to look like firewood. This illusion has only been intensified in the 15 years since the sculpture was installed; exposure to wind, rain, and sunshine has distorted the material so that, over time, it becomes more and more wood-like.

Untitled by Paul Deggan

UBC art installation "Untitled"

Similarly, Paul Deggan’s Untitled, which is on the side of the Scarfe building, is made of copper, brass, and aluminum, all of which change colour when exposed to weather (that’s why the Statue of Liberty is green, FYI). Like Wood for the People, Deggan’s installation is designed to mimic nature, with the squiggly patterns reminding us of leaves and roots. It doesn’t blend in quite like MacLeod’s work. Instead, Untitled reflects nature back at itself, changing the environment and being changed by it in turn.

Maybe it’s just the English major in me looking for a metaphor here, but I can’t help but see a reflection of my experience in all of this. Just like MacLeod and Deggan’s art, I have been changed by UBC over the last four years. The wind and the rain - and the midterms and the essays - have made me different, and I haven’t even noticed.

So, for all of the first years out there: don’t forget how you felt about UBC when you first got here. And for the jaded victory lappers like myself? It probably wouldn’t hurt to come out from under your hoods and take a look around once in awhile - a pile of wood is not always a pile of wood.

For a free outdoor art tour (30 minutes or 3 hours, depending on your availability) email: belkin.gallery@ubc.ca or download the self-guided walking tour