Well, this year's Uncommon Common Art trek was a big adventure!
It was a blistering hot day and we simply could not find our first artwork, Stop 1, on the Gaspereau riverbank, a work we really wanted to see.
Taking Exit 9, as instructed, we went up and down Oak Island Road all the way out to the glittering muddy shores of the Minas Basin, barely avoiding a ditch as my friend Genny Killin did a “10-point-turn.”
“Call Terry!” I hissed. Terry Drahos has organized Uncommon Common Art, or UCA, for 10 years, creating outdoor art adventures in Kings County with 20 pieces this year that range from Jessica Wiebe's installation at the Wolfville war monument to Twila Robar-DeCoste's wind harp in Aylesford.
“No,” Genny said. A tenacious hiker and kayaker — as well as a UCA artist — she loves to find things in the wild for herself.
We gave up and went for lunch at Grand Pre's Evangeline Cafe, a place so famous for pie its Wi-Fi password is Pies2017.
But we skipped pie. We had a mission — to find art.
First we stopped by Drahos's house in Wolfville to ask her about Stop 1.
“It's exactly 1.4 kilometres from the rotary on the old tracks,” said the artistic director of UCA. “There are poles there.”
On her dining-room table were vintage gumball machines of tiny works by UCA artists for sale for $20 as part of UCA's 10th-anniversary celebrations. The Eye Candy Machines are now at the Acadia Cinema and Harvest Gallery in Wolfville and in Kentville at the library and Kings County Museum.
Drahos worked with curator Angela Henderson, an artist and NSCAD University educator, whose curatorial statement includes this paragraph: “Drawing on the rich geological, historical, and the possible futures of Kings County, UCA 2017 brings together artists who respond to the landscape through concepts of the terrestrial and subterranean.”
We finally saw our first piece of art, a great, giant rocking horse set on the old tracks behind the Wolfville library (the former Dominion Atlantic Railway train station).
Artist Veronica Post refers directly to Wolfville artist Alex Colville's intense and famous Horse and Train painting of a horse running toward a speeding train.
I always thought the horse was in danger as relentless human industry bears down on the natural world. But remembering riding the now-extinct Valley train, it seems that the train in Colville's painting is also in danger of extinction.
Off we drove up the North Mountain and out to the shore and Scots Bay to see Genny's piece, Stones, part of her ongoing UCA series What was Left Behind.
This year, she refers to the stones left behind in the old foundations she often sees when hiking in deserted parts of Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Her stones — large blue hooped structures — also refer to human industry. “If you are gardening you're shifting stones, if you're building a house you're shifting stones,” she said. “I shifted a lot of stones to install this!”
In past years, we've eaten at The Haze in Scots Bay with its gorgeous views out to the water and delicious food. It's a good dining destination on the UCA trail as well as are the Valley's many other restaurants.
Our next stop was Alan Bateman's home on the pastoral Woodman Road along the base of the North Mountain. This is always a fun place because people are invited to walk behind the house to climb up a scenic grassy path, still marked by quotes from the poignant Robert Frost poem Bateman installed two years ago.
Bateman's 2017 piece, You Are Here, fits the curator's theme and is a wooden installation that, in Bateman's words “helps to depict the Earth's orbit around the Sun and the slight tilt that creates our seasons.”
Another trek in the woods awaited us behind the playground at Noggins Corner Farm Market. We walked a rutted dirt road with instructions to find a pond, an orchard, a shed (more like an outhouse) and, then, the trail into the Acadian forest.
Black cows stared at us but did not charge.
Sanna Rahola's Old Man's Beard is a glorious piece, seemingly simple but conceptually strong. She hangs green strings from tree branches that perfectly mimic old man's beard lichen with this environmental message: “When we see the Old Man's Beard population increase we will know that our societal efforts to protect our air quality are having a positive effect.”
It was already time to head home but first we found Holly Carr's enchanting weather vane in a field below the new Horton Ridge Malt & Grain Co. Her fanciful, beautifully painted creatures connect to each point of the four directions.
Red winged blackbirds flew amid the bullrushes and a lovely cooling wind swept over the hot land.
Back in the car, Genny was determined we give Stop 1 one more try.
Taking Oak Island Road again I saw roadside metal posts that could have been rail gate posts, then — eureka! — we found the overgrown tracks, parked the car and walked the grass-covered rotting boards out to a glorious tidal marsh that leads to the Gaspereau River.
Horizons in Environmental Pilgrimage, by Josh Collins, refers to “the weathering of natural materials over time.” It's a marvellous labyrinthean structure built out of mud, stones and sticks that will disintegrate with the changing tide. We walked across the marshy plain to get as close to it as possible.
Oh, Dear Diary, there was so much we missed ... we'll have to go back.
UCA is on view to mid-October and you can find out more about it on its website. Artist workshops are Aug. 13, 1 to 5 p.m., KC Irving Centre, Acadia University, Playing with Clay with Marla Benton, and Aug. 27, 1 to 5 p.m., KC Irving Centre, Cellphone Photography with Ernest Cadegan.