‘Legacy’ project debuts at THEMUSEUM

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“How does cutting down a tree in the forest hurt a whale in the ocean?”

That’s just one of the questions that sculptor Ken Hall wants audiences to ask themselves after they check out his piece “Legacy” that debuted at Kitchener’s THEMUSEUM last week. “Legacy” is a 25-foot long re-creation of a beached female killer whale found on the North Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The whale, given the name “Hope” by local children, was found to have unprecedented levels of toxicity, the highest ever recorded for any marine animal. The piece is a reminder of the impact of human actions on marine life, as well as a testament to Hall’s engineering prowess and creative aesthetic.

Hall is all about taking the path less traveled. Graduating from the University of Waterloo with an unconventional combination of degrees in Fine Arts and Mechanical Engineering gave Hall what he describes in an interview with The Cord as “the perfect foundation” for his future career. Starting off as a game developer in the UK, Hall took a leading role behind titles like Team S.A.S and Crackdown. Realizing the short shelf life of the work he put into video games, he returned to Canada in 2008 to focus on sculptures, which he deemed more lasting full-time work.

Hall initiated “Legacy” two years ago, bringing together not only his artistic sensibilities and engineering background, but also his love for the great outdoors. According to Hall he took after his father, and “loved…to… be out on the water or in the woods.” His Canadian background was another inspiration to take on the “Legacy” project.

“Whether it’s the oil sands in Alberta, or the hydro-dams in Quebec or the logging on the west coast,” he explained, “these are processes that are having a massive impact on the environment and a lot of us aren’t aware that we’re playing a part in that.”

“As urban centers become bigger and bigger we become more and more detached from the source of our commodities,” he added.

Hope was found with high levels of PCBs (a compound that was carelessly dumped into American waters in the 1970’s) and DDTs (an insecticide that makes its way into water through surface runoff). She can be seen as one of the many victims of the rift between human beings and the environment. “Legacy” is part of Hall’s broader goal of reconnecting people with nature and starting conversations about our place in the natural world.

When Hall began, he was able to take 3D scans made by Idaho Virtualization Laboratory during Hope’s autopsy to re-create the whale’s 160 bones with cedar wood.

“It was a perfect blend of all [my] different skills to do that” he remarked.

Coming from the point of view of an established artist, Hall gave some advice for today’s students.

“Do not worry about traditional routes,” he said “Be as broad as possible … versatility is really crucial…. [and] that’s true of any particular career nowadays.”

“Legacy” debuted at the Dufferin County Museum & Archives, went on to win the 2013 Orangeville Arts & Culture Award for “Best Creative Cultural Event, and is now on display at THEMUSEUM.

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