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Public art: Carbon Copy

What some artists and students think
of Edmonton’s art scene

Carbon Copy, defying gravity in Oliver Square.  (Chris Ranta).
By Brittany Burridge

EDMONTON’S ART SCENE has been the butt of many jokes. Unlike the $600,000 pile of silver balls, the giant baseball bat and the Southgate legs standing 20 feet high, Carbon Copy sculpture gets thumbs-up reviews from two MacEwan University art majors.

Caitlind Brown and Wayne Garrett built Carbon Copy in June 2018. Though they were unavailable for comments, their website says: “Carbon Copy transforms an unremarkable suburban car into an illuminated obelisk, a monument to North America’s car-centric culture, and a glitch in our regular understanding of everyday life.”

Kaitlin Scott, 21, a 2020 graduate of MacEwan’s Fine Arts diploma program, says she loves what the sculpture represents.

“It’s f***king rad. I thought it was about deconstructing things, showing how they can be inverted in a way that isn’t familiar. That’s a whole parking lot of normal cars, and they’re doing what normal cars do. And then this thing is a copy – it is a car. I look at it and I see a car, but it’s wrong and it’s different.”

‘There are so many issues in Edmonton’s art scene.
It’s very male; it’s very whitewashed’

Scott’s says her opinion of other Edmonton art projects do not match her praise for Carbon Copy.

“There’s a lot of modern art that happens in Edmonton that doesn’t seem modern,” she says. “It still doesn’t seem relevant. I don’t like a lot of them because, you know, things are over-academic sometimes.”

Scott believes Edmonton’s most significant art trend is abstract-minimalist, which she says can be inaccessible and hard to understand. For Edmonton’s artistic future, she adds, there needs to be wider diversity and a more extensive representation of Indigenous art, such as the Mother Bear Prays for Earth Healing sculpture on the MacEwan campus.

“There are so many issues in Edmonton’s art scene,” Scott says. “It’s very male; it’s very white-washed.”

“Edmonton is all pretty much Treaty 6 territory. I think a lot more [art] should be in celebration of Indigenous artists, because there are so many.”

Scott aims to teach sociology and art history, but says she doesn’t think that’s possible in Edmonton.

“Art history is very whitewashed, I think, here in Alberta. I’ll probably go to UBC.”

One interesting thing about the installation is how differently it can be interpreted, depending on one’s point of view. (Chris Ranta)

In contrast, Danielle Jeanene credits Edmonton’s art as the reason she won’t leave.

The 25-year-old MacEwan student dropped out of Psychology to study design. She is in the second semester of her new major.

One of the most interesting aspects of Carbon Copy, she says, is its location – nose-down on the sidewalk where people can appreciate it up close.

“I think it reflects the location itself. The brewery district, I think, was around in the early 1900s. They’ve been trying to do a new trendy community there that really kind of balances the historical presence with new modern stuff. So I think the sculpture itself reflects that.”

Jeanene says she also likes the different interpretations that are possible depending on how you look at the car.

“I thought it was interesting how they decided to place it front down. It really gives the feeling that the car is crashing, whereas if they flipped it around the other way, it feels more optimistic in the sense that it’s about to take off.”

‘The feet over by Southgate, that’s kind 
of horrifying, to be honest’

Jeanene, too, says Carbon Copy outshines other public art in Edmonton.

“I think that it’s still quirky and unique, but it’s a step in the right direction compared to other environment art we have right now. The feet over by Southgate, that’s kind of horrifying, to be honest.”

Jeanene says not all of the public sculptures deserve to be celebrated. But, she also says she can’t get enough of the murals scattered through the city core, and hopes Edmonton artists will continue painting on walls and building sculptures like Carbon Copy.

“You can go through the city on a weekend and still not even see all of the painted walls or roads. Even walking down Whyte Ave., every wall has something, and it’s done for the most part tastefully. It’s not just graffiti, but they still kind of have that graffiti-route culture, like it doesn’t feel fabricated or paid for; it still has heart to it.”

Though she says she loves the Whyte Avenue murals and the 124th Street art scene, she adds that she’d like to see the art spread out to beautify the whole city – not just the touristy areas.

“It would be nice just to have a bit more variety, like where in the city. Because there is such a density of art in those areas.”

Despite her few qualms about the local art scene, Jeanene says she won’t be leaving soon.

“If not for the Edmonton art scene, I probably would have tried to leave the city quite a while ago. Even if I were to move away, it would still feel like home.”

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