Christopher van Donkelaar’s completed icon continues to draw interest
Christopher van Donkelaar has completed his 100 Mile ART project — an icon made using materials from 100 miles surrounding Cambridge — and interest in his project continues to grow as people learn about his work through the media.
The finished icon uses material found or farmed within a 100-mile radius of Cambridge, Ont., where he was named the Cambridge Centre for the Arts 2008 artist-in-residence. While he originally planned for the project to span a year and a half, he ended up completing it in six months.
Van Donkelaar chose 100 miles as local because that’s what the authors of the 100-mile diet defined. After being in Wales one summer, van Donkelaar says he had marvelled at how beautiful the landscape was, but then when driving over the hills back home in Conestoga he realized the beauty in his surrounding area.
In the local towns such as Elora and Elmira, driving 10 minutes in any direction shows changes in the colour of the old buildings because of the different rivers where the clay was extracted, he notes.
“It’s really interesting to see how an area actually does have a colour associated with it,” says van Donkelaar, adding he could be blindfolded and taken downtown and know what town he is in because of the buildings.
He says he learned through the project that each geographical location has its own colour, and is excited to have produced something that draws on that directly.
Van Donkelaar, who is the also the Ontario Alliance of Christian Schools (OACS) director of technologies, presented the project in three sections. The first was a blog storying the steps he took to find materials for the project and what worked and didn’t work.
He says the project was a fun adventure, as he scoured for materials from the poplar tree frame to using local rocks and plants to create pigments.
The completed icon, titled Adam Naming the Animals, was exhibited at the Cambridge Centre for the Arts for six weeks. The icon, rocks and boulders and a map showing where
van Donkelaar collected his materials were on display.
The third part of the project was presenting a pair of workshops, one for kids at the farmer’s market who crushed rocks and used beeswax to create a mural, and the other a weekend intensive artist workshop for adults.
Interest in the project has been heightened through coverage in the media, including the CBC and the April edition of Canadian Geographic.
Van Donkelaar continues to receive samples of rocks and pigments from different areas in Canada and Alaska. He is tracking the colours that are sent to him through a map on his website, www.100mileART.com.
“It may morph more or less into a Canadian colour project, but we’ll see where that goes,” he says.
Van Donkelaar says he learned many lessons while working on his 100 Mile ART Project, but the one that currently stands out the most is the problem of waste in society and the need to value goods.
Since the project has demonstrated the work of making something from scratch, he says it has made him place more value on other things in his life too. The mindset that something is cheap and therefore worthless due to automation and abundance is a big problem in society, he says.
“I think this is a huge issue, and it’s something which I’ve become more attuned to through this project personally, it has certainly changed the way that I do things,” he says.
There are a few colours created that are now part of van Donkelaar’s regular palette, such as the maya blue. He says having gone through the process of finding rocks and pulverizing them into paint or using other more complicated processes there is “a whole new value” placed on colour.
Learn more about the 100 Mile ART Project by visiting van Donkelaar’s website at www.100mileART.com.