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Cathedral of the Return

1994 Studio Gallery, Capilano University, BC, Canada

Artist's Statement, 1994

‘Cathedral of the Return’ is a project in three parts. It is based on the activities of everyday walking and the collecting/gathering of red cedar knots from Princess Park, in North Vancouver. Princess is a fair sized park, about twelve blocks in area, part wilderness, part cleared, with a change in elevation of about 100 ft. in the wild area. A pylon path, about three blocks long. approaches from the south.


The knots of the cedar can be seen as the bones of the tree, the last vestige of the

physical manifestation of these immense forms before they return to the earth.


The flesh of the red cedar decays in such a manner as to leave the knots in most

fascinating forms. While collecting and sorting the knots I noticed 5 primary shape

categories: daggers, rifles, pistols, T-shapes and a more amorphous rounded form, clump. It seems that it is only the red cedar that decays in this fashion, the flesh of the wood falling off the trunk in such a way as to leave the shapes very clear and defined; knots of other trees are generally more jagged and broken in texture.



The first part is a meditation of attention: each journey down the pylon path to the wood, the wood itself, and the path out is chronicled. The exercise helps one become more conscious of the process of walking / looking / gathering.


The use of a real pathway in this meditation has similarities to traditional internal

Path-working meditations from Western Hermetic traditions: the path leads into the ‘wood’; in the ‘wood’ anything may happen- any realization or insight; the path then leads you safely home with the new wisdom or experience.


Occasionally family and friends were invited to join these walks/meditations.



The forms gathered are taken out of their environment and placed in a defined space. They are placed mainly in circular mandalic forms, which reflect the concentric circles of the growth of the trees, and echoes the pattern-making of all nature. The circle in many spiritual traditions expresses the ultimate wholeness of life- from the geometric rose windows of British and European cathedrals, to the one-stroke Zen circle paintings.



The third part of the project will be the return of the knot forms or tree bones to their place of origin, to the centre of Princess Park, a steep wooded hill, the top of which is encircled by large burnt tree stumps. The knots will be placed in the centre of this space in a single concentric circle. They will then be left to decay and disperse naturally.


I would like to thank my helpers on this project, especially Rosemary Burden, Alexander Gomersall, Jenna Hardy, Liz Johnston. George Rammell, Barry Cogswell, and Capilano College for the use of the space, and Margaret and Rolf Witzsche for the use of the truck.

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