Environmental Art in Sherborne Park

Jill Anholt's Light Showers

Jill Anholt’s Light Showers in Sherbourne Park, Toronto

Jill Anholt’s art piece, Light Showers, is an actualization of “the surrounding community’s aspirations of sustainability”(Anholt’s website) but also a very ‘Canadian’ indigenous piece.

It is hard not to be immediately drawn to the piece. It stands 9 feet high, adorned with a dynamic light show, a cascading waterfall and a pool at its feet. You can’t help but spend time contemplating its components. The structure is industrial minimalism but skillfully contains growing organic matter. The harsh lines stand out like a sore thumb next to the smooth waves and bunches of leaves.  Juxtaposition doesn’t always work, but Light Showers accurately reflects the current cultural climate and this makes it immediately favorable. While simultaneously asserting its artificiality but requiring nature’s participation, it represents a desire to reintegrate life into a machine world.

At second glance you notice the murky water and can’t help by be afraid as you question its sanitation. Your fears are soothed as you learn more about the piece. The first of its kind in Canada, treated waste water is put into the public’s eye. Finally a public art piece that brings an urban process to the forefront of our conscious! The piece transforms the waste water treatment into a conversation topic and inspires one to live more sustainably. It is too easy to look the other way and not question where trash is being sent but by designing it to be seen, responsibility never looked so good.

The ‘Ahh’ moment comes from the significance it has to our national identity. Canada is a leader in fresh water supply, something that is not celebrated enough. By focusing on protecting this valuable resource we are earning our right to use it. I fear that we might one day naively give up our rights to water to another country who knows its value more than us. By deliberately celebrating it, I hope that we are moving towards a future where everyone is concerned with maintaining this resource.

Light Showers parallels aboriginal values. The significance of nature is not lost to aboriginal people. This is most obviously seen by the name of our god, Mother Nature. Gregory Cajete, author of Native Science, highlighted in his book that the greatest goal of life is creating a harmonious relationship with nature. That is precisely what Light Showers does. In the city, water does its part by feeding us, bathing us, taking away our waste. Now, like always, it is each person’s responsibility to do their part by making sure we neutralize the bad and celebrate the partnership.

Joseph Bazegatte included a lavishly decorated pumping station as part of London’s Sewer System. The Crossness Pumping Station turns necessary component into a sacred space. While Light Shower’s is but one petal to the whole rose in comparison, it too uses art as a means of ceremony and transformation.