Trashy art with a powerful message

Toronto has a garbage disposal problem. With no space in the city to keep its own garbage, Toronto has been sending its trash to Michigan. The environmental impact of this action can be seen in Re: Forestation, an installation by Michael Davey, professor of visual arts in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts. The installation runs through Nov. 6 at the York Quay Gallery at Toronto’s Harbourfront Centre.

 Above: Artist Michael Davey’s Re: Forestation

Like many artists who live on Toronto Island, Davey is concerned about the future of our natural world. Re: Forestation is a party-coloured grove of trees made of discarded items, such as coat stands, footballs, pool cues, a wide assortment of inexpensive toys and plant pots. His installation of found materials is like a scruffy jungle-gym for the eco-sensitive.

The underlying message in this work is that mankind is filling open spaces with irreducible garbage. Despite the tone of the message, there’s also a silly sense of humour and a bit of the ridiculous at play in Davey’s installation. The many ways he finds to create a tree is entertaining, from a toddler’s pink baseball bat to a bent hula hoop. Perhaps, Davey’s work also reflects an optimistic belief that a solution can be found to the burgeoning garbage problem.

Davey is a sculptor specializing in installation, fabricated and cast metal work. He has exhibited his sculptures and work in other media, including drawing, photography, book works and performances, in Canada, Europe and the United States.

His research has taken him to Carrara, Italy, where he created a site-specific work, and to England where he completed an artist-in-residency and group exhibition, which led to the establishment of a student exchange program with the University of Northumbria. He has held lectureships in sculpture at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Edinburgh College of Art, Scotland.

As a founding member of Toronto’s Mercer Union, he has held solo shows and curated local, national and international exhibitions. He is a member of Red Head, an artist-led gallery in Toronto.

For more information about Re-Forestation, visit the Harbourfront Web site.

This article was submitted to YFile by Mary-Lou Schagena in the Faculty of Fine Arts.