Art or Protest, or Protest Art?

Art or Protest, or Protest Art?

Last week I blogged about the loss of valuable trees in Sackville. A few days later an interesting thing appeared over the stumps of the missing trees. An object, or more accurately, an installation – alluding to what once was there. I’m fascinated by the thought and effort someone put into this statement. Does anyone know who it was? I’d love to hear them tell their story.

(Since posting this query the artist has been found. Mount Allison fine arts student Melinda Musgrave is behind the installation. I hope she will be able to share her thoughts around this wonderful piece.)

This installation on York Street brings to mind a lecture given

at Mount Allison about Eco-longing. Jen Doyle, a researcher at Waterloo is exploring a concept she calls eco-longing – a human imitation of nature in the absence of the natural that we long for. Think pretty flowers on a Kleenex box, or the wrought iron cattails on Sackville’s new Town Hall. As I understand it, this is usually the creation of something we think is beautiful – but the disconnect between what we long for and what was there is usually unconscious, unstated. Is this installation eco-longing with a difference, where the connection between the art and the longed for is explicit?

Are you concerned about the loss of Heritage Trees? Are you moved by the art? Share your comments below!



  1. Janet Hammock

    Yes, Kevin. This honouring which Melinda did is heartbreaking. The beautiful tree in photo #1 was so easy to destroy in the name of $$. Although this art is from the heart, I am getting sick and tired of seeing wooden sculptures of people of a bygone era –or people in any shape or form, dressed in any way — finding form out of the trunks of trees that have been killed or chopped down because they were deemed to be too old. Every time I see a heritage tree sawed to leave 15′ or so of trunk, I cringe to think of what will soon be there. These supposedly creative, artistic testaments to majestic old trees leave me angry. Let’s take our cues from these feeble efforts, and see what we can do, starting now (if we have not already started), to create an environment where trees are given the respect and care that they deserve.

    • I totally agree Janet, but i do think that tree statues can be a nice way of honouring trees that are removed due to disease. Unless i’ve been brainwashed (which may be partly true) my understanding is that most of the chainsaw art in places like Truro, Sackville and Amherst are victims of Dutch Elm Disease. However, I agree that it is senseless to make human sculptures out of trees, mainly because they always end up looking kind of demented. I think nature agrees because it usually responds by drying up and shrinking the faces in disproportionate ways that make these guys look even creepier. It would be fun to see some more creative work (maybe some good ol’ eco mimicry would help me get my fix). In a way, especially if the tree is leaving us because of a terminal illness, it’s kinda nice that it leaves behind a canvas that we can work with to hopefully and respectfully make something beautiful. What do you think?

    • Deanna Musgrave

      I think it is important to note the difference between the tree memorials being discussed here. While traditionally we see trees turned into humanoids or fake plant life, Melinda’s piece references a burlap tent structure, which is used in gardening to protect plants from harsh elements. The fact this protective structure is placed over a tree stomp highlights the loss of the tree, as well as, the failed task of protecting it – making it both memorial and protest.