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West Vancouver art exhibition has climate optimism at its crux

Martha Sturdy hopes to inspire exhibition guests to look forward to a more positive future, rather than dwell on the present.
Martha Sturdy's exhibition All Fall Down will be showing at the West Vancouver Art Museum until mid-December.

The latest exhibition to be housed at West Vancouver's Art Museum may be centred around climate change, but it's creator – artist and West Van local Martha Sturdy – assures it is anything but "just another disaster story." 

Sturdy, contemporary sculpture artist, homeware creator and applauded accessories designer, is an eternal optimist. She is forever searching for the silver lining in every cloud and the solution to every problem, and the climate crisis is no exception. 

All Fall Down comprises four large sculptures crafted from wood that has been salvaged from the forests near Sturdy's weekend home in Pemberton. Treated with fire, black stain and resin, each log is a soot black, stark reminder of the unprecedented rate of global warming and the natural disasters – like incessant wildfires – it brings. 

Three of the sculptures reside indoors, set against an audio of gusty wind and installed alongside steel pieces that represent a dry, cracked earth floor.

Yet in front of the museum, where a sizable stack of logs can be seen by museum-goers and passersby, a glimmer of hope can be spotted between the trunks: a lush sapling, emerging from the ash. It is a small but mighty nod to a hopeful future. 

"When you come in here, what I want people to feel is that elegance, the mystery of the forest, the beauty of the forest and sadness of what is happening," explained Sturdy. 

"It has this effect on you, and I'm hoping that when people are reminded of the problem, they will be urged to think of a solution. I'm optimistic that we will fix this." 

For Sturdy, 80, being in the unique position of having lived through many doomsday events brings about a peculiar sense of positivity. She compares the current crises to the Great Smog of London, a severe air pollution event that thwarted the British city in the 1950s, and the acid rain disaster that occurred throughout Canada in the 1990s.  

"There have been all these things that have happened before. Not in the way that they are now, but there are still issues we've had that we have learned how to solve," she said. 

Rather than dwell on the negative, Sturdy hopes the exhibition will inspire guests to look to the future – to look for a solution. "It can be in whatever little way you can," she said, going on to add how every positive choice makes a change, even if it is simply using a keep cup or learning more about recycling. 

All Fall Down opens to the public today (Oct. 19) and runs until Dec. 17. 

Mina Kerr-Lazenby is the North Shore News' Indigenous and civic affairs reporter. This reporting beat is made possible by the Local Journalism Initiative.

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