Nature meets consumerism in a new work by Vancouver artist Marcus Bowcott. Bowcott has stacked five junked cars atop a 20 foot high cedar tree in a piece called Trans Am Totem. An ode to the automobile? Not really.  Bowcott’s sculpture reminds us of our reliance upon fossil fuels, global warming and the continuing degradation of the environment.

1 At the wreckers. Photo credit Bowcott

 At the wreckers (Photo Credit: Marcus Bowcott)

2 At the wreckers again Photo credit Bowcott

“The automobile holds a unique position in our culture,” says the artist. “It’s a manufactured want and a symbol of extremes: practicality and luxury, necessity and waste. We can see this in the muscular Trans Am, the comfortable BMW and the workhorse Civic. Trans Am Totem questions the cycle of production and consumption.”

3 The artist at work Photo credit Bowcott

 The artist at work (Photo Credit: Marcus Bowcott)

5 Preparing the concrete base  Photo credit Bowcott

 Preparing the concrete base (Photo Credit: Marcus Bowcott)

6 Preparing the base again Photo credit Bowcott

Bowcott first turned to paints to make his point. “I started painting images of cars and that was OK,” he says “but I felt I needed to incorporate humour.” Trans Am Totem started life, in Bowcott’s mind, as a stacked car sundial before it rose to loftier heights.

Five cars, five visits to the wrecking yard. Engines, transmissions and drive trains were removed; in fact everything was taken out to make them lighter. But stacking still posed an engineering problem. How do you support five automobiles, 33 feet high in total, on top of a tree trunk?

7 Attaching cedar to steel support Phot credit Bowcott

Attaching cedar to steel support (Photo Credit: Marcus Bowcott)

The answer: the tree trunk isn’t a tree trunk but a steel shaft disguised as a tree. The cedar trunk which ostensibly supports the stack was sliced down the middle, hollowed out and then wrapped around the pole like a blanket.

8 Assembly Photo credit Bowcott

Assembling the cars (Photo Credit: Marcus Bowcott)

The irony of placing five metallic machines atop an old-growth cedar, an icon in environmentally sensitive British Columbia, isn’t lost upon the artist. Nor is the fact the sculpture is located on a major thoroughfare through which thousands of cars pass very day.

9 Finished totem 1 Photo credit Thomson

Totem (Photo Credit: John Thomson)

“We’re in the horns of a dilemma here,” says Bowcott. “We’re fascinated with speed, we’re fascinated by consumer objects and this consumerism has an effect on Nature.”

10 Totem 2 Photo credit Thomson

Totem Closeup (Photo Credit: John Thomson)

11 Totem 3 Photo credit Thomson

(Photo Credit: John Thomson)

13 Totem 5 Photo credit Bowcott

(Photo Credit: John Thomson)

Bowcott produced the work for the Vancouver International Sculpture Biennale, an ongoing bi-annual celebration of global themes expressed through public art. The Biennale contributed $10,000 of Totem’s $40,000 cost. Bowcott financed the rest through personal funds, in-kind donations and a crowdfunding campaign. Trans Am Totem will remain on site, a prime downtown location, for another two years.

Marcus Bowcott

Vancouver Biennale

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