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Artwork reflects the Mill Woods experience

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By Paula E. Kirman Sweetgrass Writer EDMONTON







The work of a Métis artist will grace the new Mill Wood Seniors and Multicultural Centre set to open in June. Destiny Swiderski’s creation “Milled Woods” was chosen from 32 responses to a national public art competition. The piece is made of off-cuts of two-by-four spruce that have been cut, sanded, and stained to reproduce an optical illusion of the Mill Creek Ravine.

“Public art can create a sense of place and/or reflect the reality of a community or area. In the case of Milled Woods, Destiny proposed an abstract three-dimensional mural made of reclaimed wood blocks. Her finished mural evokes the natural history of the Mill Woods area, creates a moment of tranquility, is visually engaging, and compliments the architecture of the space,” said Eva Marie Clarke, communications officer with the Edmonton Arts Council.

Swiderski is Cree Métis and lives in British Columbia, but has family roots in Frog Lake, Alberta. She began inquiring about her Aboriginal heritage in her mid-20s and her work reflects Cree craft and Aboriginal narratives. “Milled Woods” is her third commission from the Edmonton Arts Council.

“My artistic style comes from looking at one object and deciding whether it can create an image by repetition. The process is tedious, yet meditative, as I use many tools to discover optical illusions through experimentation of materiality. Creating an experience for the viewer is important to my practice as the design reveals narratives of place through scale, materiality, and time,” she said.

After receiving a bachelor of environmental design in architecture from the University of Manitoba in 2007, Swiderski created architectural installations at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto. 

“I think I got chosen for the commission because I strive for simplicity and try to generate experiential environments that people can relate to. My background in architecture has allowed me to feel confident from the conceptualization to the completion of this artwork,” she said.

She explained that the “concept behind ‘Milled Wood’ is about creating an intimate, quiet space in a busy public building. The river valley system in Edmonton is what makes this city and the community of Mill Woods unique and special. I wanted to capture the experience of walking through the trails as dense deciduous trees wrap around the viewer.”

Each of the 8,400 pieces of wood that make up the piece were attended to by Swiderski five times in order to get the intended effect. Three different sizes of wood blocks were created, which allowed for sound pockets. 

“As you approach the mural, the acoustical experience is heightened as voices get trapped and a subtle calmness over the space is revealed,” she said.

Most of all, Swiderski says that she is honoured to be a part of this new building because of its modern design and high LEED standards.

“I feel a great deal of pleasure giving this gift to the community because I think we all take our places of residence for granted,” she said. “I want the community to feel a great sense of pride and ownership of where they live and work. Mill Creek Ravine runs through this area and it is my goal to create an experience of tranquility and peacefulness in an urban centre. I want people to sit and gather around this artwork and for a moment take them to a place where birds and the wind carry over them.”