Leslie Pearson, a local artist, co-owner of Fayetteville Pie Company, and a trustee on the board of the Arts Council of Fayetteville/Cumberland County, has been selected as an artist for an innovative project in Australia. The artwork, named Canoe, will be set on fire after traveling through various landscapes – and three ceremonies – in the city of Geelong, 47 miles southwest of Melbourne.
Canoe will be the lead processional artwork of Mountain to Mouth 2018, Geelong’s award-winning extreme arts walk, a 50-mile biennial journey of discovery after two days (May 4-5).
Pearson says the journey to creating Canoestarted with a virtual connection, which has turned into an artistic collaboration.
“Artist Kerrie Bedson and I met about two years ago through Facebook,” Pearson explains. “Kerrie owns an arts and training space called The Studio at 54 in Victoria, Australia. We both have an affinity for working with natural materials, such as wood, found objects, bone, paper, wax and gut (also known as sausage casings).”
Pearson says that Bedson approached her about creating an ephemeral sculpture for the Mountain to Mouth experience, and both collaborated cross-globally on a concept and proposal, which was accepted. They’ve already begun work on prototypes and sketches, along with gathering materials.
“We are both very excited to finally meet in-person,” says Pearson, who will travel to Australia on April 14, and begin 10 days of work with Bedson to complete Canoe.
“We plan to cover the bamboo structure in gut, which will be very ethereal. Then it will be carried by foot for 50 miles to the final ceremony site and sent out into the water on fire. My favorite part is that the community members are writing prayers for healing and putting them into the canoe before it is set ablaze. It will be a beautiful, and for me, a spiritual experience.”
To get an idea of the complete Mountain To Mouth experience, the journey begins in the You Yangs mountain range, crossing Geelong’s industrial heartland at nightfall and arriving in the city center to coincide with Geelong After Dark, a night of extreme and unexpected art experiences. At dawn the next day, the extreme arts walk continues through the city center to the Barwon River, then on to the rolling Bellarine farmland, along ocean beaches, and then to the river’s mouth at Barwon Heads by sunset. There will be songlines moving along with Canoe in its journey. Songlines have been used by indigenous cultures across Australia for centuries as ways to navigate the terrain.
As organizers describe it, “Mountain to Mouth 2018 is about land and people – and it’s about bringing these two together.”
Pearson adds, “Canoe will be involved in the three ceremonies, then set on fire during the final ceremony; therefore, the materials used to create the sculpture need to burn without toxic effect on the environment. Kerrie and I plan to use locally sourced bamboo, cane, and hog, beef and sheep intestines as the main materials. The masthead will be preserved and displayed as part of a permanent collection.”
The Canoe commission has been made possible by funding from founding partner Deakin University. Pearson and Bedson will lead a workshop with a group of Deakin creative art students, and one student will be selected to work with them on the completion of Canoe.
Mountain to Mouth began in 2009 with a pilot Canoe event, and later incarnations in 2014 and 2016.