From my art history studies at Kwantlen Polytechnic University, I’ve found it useful to break down my own artwork following a set of elements Dr. Dorothy Barenscott teaches her students to do, not only with the artworks they are studying, but with their own artwork as well, where, “…at the most basic and fundamental level art historians routinely study the intersection of three key elements of visual art: FORM, CONTENT, and CONTEXT” (Barenscott).
Formally, a leading line is an environmental earthwork art installation created on November 14, 2018, consisting of leaves that were arranged to lay flat on the surface of the side of the first flight of stairs, forming a straight line, approximately five to six inches wide, alongside the wall from the bottom of the first stairwell located in the newest part of the Fir Building, up to the top of it. The leaves in and of themselves served as the primary symbol of the artwork and were applied to the flat cement surface of the stairwell while they were still wet. While the leaves remained wet, they appeared as a flat, unified whole, as though they were painted directly onto the stairwell itself.
As the leaves dried, they lifted from the surface and the different rough textures of each individual leaves became apparent. The leaves remained installed in this location from Wednesday, November 14 until Tuesday, November 20 when they were most likely removed by the University’s cleaning staff. Many environmental earthwork art pieces are usually temporary and are not meant to last. To this end, had the piece been installed on an outdoor stairwell, and if it had rained during its placement their, the piece would have likely lasted longer as it would not have dried up as easily. The timing of when this specific project was made also helped as it was only possible to do this specific project when the leaves were falling from the trees. Had I attempted to create this project even a week later, there might not have been any leaves left to gather and use in a work like this.
Furthermore, the placement of the line was such that it didn’t necessarily stand out to those going up and down the stairwell, rather it was meant to exist within the periphery of their observation. The lighting of the stairwell, as dependant upon whether it was sunny or cloudy out, as well as on the time of day, helped to also play a role in how the leaves stood out to individuals walking up and down the stairwell. Bright, sunny daylight coming into the space from the windows of the stairwell seemed to help hide the installation, as the interior space became somewhat darker and the piece almost seemed backlit by the outside light. The effect of the daylight on the artwork cast the piece in a kind of silhouette – like how a subject being photographed can appear as a silhouette when the lighting behind a subject is too bright. When it got cloudy outside, or when it became nighttime, where the daylight coming into the space was replaced by the darkness, this allowed the line to stand out a lot more easily as it was illuminated by the artificial, fluorescent lighting of the building’s stairwell.
Traditionally, environmental earthwork art pieces are created in outdoor locations using natural materials (such as, but not limited to: rocks, stones, leaves, grasses, sand, dirt and clays) that are found nearby. With this piece however, I specifically chose an indoor location to serve as the place where the work would live, in order to facilitate my desire to bring the outside nature into an inside space, thereby softening and bringing life to that space. As such, since the piece is installed inside, this earthwork acts as an intervention of sorts for those who notice it – an installation that helps breakup the banal, cold, drab, mundane, and rather stale confines of the enclosed institutional concrete stairwell.
Finally, the colour of the piece was created by using the natural colours of the leaves collected from the ground, which had already changed colours from their original natural shades of green that they held during the spring and summer. The leaves had fallen from the trees that lined the small grassy area between east end of the Fir Building on the Surrey Campus of Kwantlen Polytechnic University and the campus’s parking lot, as seen outlined by the red rectangle in the following photograph:
The found leaves were various shades of browns, reds, dark maroons, and a few yellows. Had this project been done a few weeks earlier, I might have been able to utilize a wider range of colour. Nevertheless, I was able to create a slight gradation between the colours from light to dark and back again from dark to light was formed and provided a bit of variety in the movement of the piece overall as the line moved up each step.