RED, WHITE AND SOUP: HORNBY ISLAND PUBLIC ART PROJECT BY PYX SUTHERLAND TRANSFORMS UTILITARIAN WATER TANK INTO CONTEMPORARY ART WARHOL-STYLE
by Joan Athey
Startling and unexpected, the art-loving population of Hornby Island now has a fun roadside attraction to add to the list of views, beaches and wildlife the island is known for. The oversized Campbell’s soup can tribute to Andy Warhol is the work of internationally-known painter Roberta Pyx Sutherland. In the summer of 2012 she was one of two artists handed huge, rusty water tanks by the Community Arts Council. The goal? To turn the Fire Department's water reservoirs into pieces of public art. About eight large tanks are dotted about the landscape in locations convenient for the trucks to reach in case of fire.
Located on a rural corner, at first Pyx attempted a design to camouflage the tank and have it blend it into the trees in the background. The tank refused. Nothing worked. Stepping back and embracing the challenge she was inspired by the words of the Island's voice for contemporary art, curator Annette Hurtig who had just passed away . “No more eagles, no more trees. Expand yourself.” With the thought of the local food bank kitchen in mind and their constant pressure for supplies plus Andy Warhol’s 50th anniversary of the famous artwork looming, the tank seemed to scream “I am a soup can from New York City. Let me help".
She could hardly believe it. The dimensions were perfect. If rendered properly, it would be surreal - like the Jolly Green Giant had dropped a can of soup from his lunch bucket. It could be a landmark. People would enjoy it and laugh at the improbability of such acclaimed art landing on Hornby. The Campbell's Soup Company marketed reproductions of Warhol's soup can series and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City created an exhibition around it.) Something unexpected ...isn't this what art is all about?
Fortunately there was a local artist with set design experience, Tara Ireland, who agreed to help. It took over 100 hours of concentrated effort to complete. While some of Pyx's typical drawings and collages may look three-dimensional, it was was the first time she had worked on an enormous curved metal surface. Utilizing her experience in design, she even created a landscaping plan to complete the setting.
Pyx, like Warhol, has studied many styles and methods of art ranging from ceramic shrines to copper engraving. She has traveled through Asia and Africa . She has studied with Zen Roshis and Tibetan thanka painters.
Pyx first bought her Grassy Point studio on Hornby in 1998. She has been involved with the community, opening her studio and showing regularly on the island ever since.