Kim Cooper is a Vancouver-based artist, designer, and community facilitator responsible for Immutable Affection, the public art that will be displayed at Maywood on the Park in Metrotown. Her art practice is grounded in our human connection to the earth on an individual and a larger societal level, questioning the human condition, the environment and how art can foster connection and community. We sat down with Kim to learn about the inspiration behind her public artwork at Maywood.
- Kim, you are a person of many talents: artist, designer and community facilitator! How do you tie all of this together when designing a new project? It really depends on the project, sometimes I wear all the hats and sometimes only 1 or 2, but they all tend to help inform the process one way or another. For my public art practice, I do a fair bit of research about the area and community where the work will go as I start on a new project. It’s where my inspiration comes from. Having a background as a designer also helps navigate all the technical stuff that’s required for art in the public realm.
- Which part of the design process do you enjoy the most, and why is this the element that most excites you? As I mentioned above, the research really lets me dive in, as I then have a basket of ideas and inspiration to work with and coalesce into a new piece. Coalescing and watching the piece take shape is the most challenging and exciting as I’m never sure where it will finally land when I start. Watching it come into real life (being built) is also pretty exciting.
- You have spoken previously of using your art practice to question how art can both foster connection and community and alienate. Alongside exciting community projects in Burnaby, such as the Beresford Art Walk, how will the public art at Maywood play a part in deepening connection and community?
I see Immutable Affection as a sculpture that will spark dialogue between people within the community. What does it mean to them? What memories does it evoke? Do they like it or hate it? It will provide a landmark that encourages dreaming and connection as it is situated between the new development and a park.
- You mentioned you believe in creating sustainable pieces, which are not only visually stunning but also long-lasting and durable. How did this influence you in terms of balancing materials and aesthetics? When creating public art, it is easier to address the durability as the pieces themselves are meant to be there for a very long time. So steel and gfrc are what I choose here, as they provide the strength but also have the hand-sculpted potential. For another temporary project, Nest, I used recycled wood, which fit the aesthetics, timeline, and was easily recycled at the end.
- Many of your projects are designed to ‘bring others into contact with their environment in a new and unexpected way’. How did the landscape of Burnaby inspire you when designing this piece?
The motto for Burnaby is “By River and Sea Rise Burnaby” which was a starting point for me with this piece. It speaks to the history and landscape of the place and the importance of water in the development of the area. There are many lessons we can learn from the water and its inhabitants if we choose to listen.
Immutable Affection alludes to molecules and honey as symbols of community & interconnection as the piece slowly expands upwards into the sky. The curving nature evokes the underside of a ship as it moves through water. Stylized barnacles slowly populate the structure.Barnacles were a beautiful symbol for me here, in their duality for humanity. Their larvae provide food for salmon, and they are filter feeders which keep our waters clean, yet they annoy boaters. Finding that balance is where the sweet spot is. With patience and time, when we pay attention to the details, pearls of wisdom or nuggets of gold emerge. I see this as a similar approach to new development; the community thrives when it is built with care and attention to detail.