As a boy, Red Deer author and naturalist Kerry Wood once swam underwater to explore a beaver lodge.
This bold — and potentially hazardous — move has inspired a new abstract public artwork at the Gaetz Lake Sanctuary.
Castor Constructed is a metal, rock and wood piece created by Red Deer artists Janet Cole and Cindy Jones. The $11,400 sculpture that resembles the curved shape of a beaver den, is located near the parking lot and nature playground. It represents the important role of beavers in our environment.
It also pays tribute to the late Wood, the namesake of the adjacent Kerry Wood Nature Centre.
Cole and Jones had read some of Wood’s stories and were struck by The Beaver House. It recounts how Wood’s boyhood curiosity about beaver lodges prompted him to dive underwater and stick his head inside a beaver den.
This was a dangerous act, said Cole. “He just found the hole and popped his head in. He could have drowned,” and she hates to think of what could have happened if a beaver had been home at the time.
But Wood managed to get a good look inside a beaver dwelling, which is central to the survival of the hard-working rodents.
The sculpture, which was paid from a fund that put aside one per cent of construction costs from the renovated nature centre for art installations, was designed by Cole and Jones to resemble the supports holding up a beaver house.
Jones said beavers use heavier pieces of wood as a frame, then weave smaller branches, packed with mud, to create walls.
The sculpture is made of metal plate, but “we made marks, as if beavers had been chewing on them and left some teeth marks,” added Cole, who previously worked with Jones to make a much smaller wall sculpture for the rebuilt Slave Lake Public Library.
Jones, who created some of the banners hanging in the children’s department at the Red Deer Public Library, is used to making large-scale three-dimensional works. Some of her sculptures were displayed in 2005 at the Red Deer museum.
Castor Constructed was created last winter in Jones’s workshop, using welding torches for the steel bending and plasma cutters for the mark marking. Cole said the biggest challenge was the physical labour involved in moving and bending the steel, which was later powder coated to prevent rust. The edges were also ground to make them safer.
Both artists studied visual arts at Red Deer College. Jones has a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Calgary.
They hope viewers will walk around their sculpture, which sits amid a bed of gravel in a pond shape, and think about the beaver’s role in “creating wetland ecosystems that are full of life and diversity.”