Meet the junk art artist behind the giant queen bee installation in South Vancouver

·3 min read
An art installation named 'Queen BX1000' by Montreal artist Junko sits in an open lot in South Vancouver. The artist says it took over a month to put together. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC - image credit)
An art installation named 'Queen BX1000' by Montreal artist Junko sits in an open lot in South Vancouver. The artist says it took over a month to put together. (Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC - image credit)

The artist behind a huge queen bee art installation in an industrial area of South Vancouver says they wanted to add "a little bit of magic" to daily commuters' days.

"Queen BX1000" was created with recycled materials by a Montreal-based street artist known mononymously as Junko. They say it's their biggest piece to date.

It is a nearly five-metre-tall statue on a vacant plot of land near the Fraser River, visible from both the Canada Line SkyTrain station —  between the Bridgeport and Marine Drive stations — as well as the nearby Canada Line bikeway.

Junko told CBC News the installation was made with recycled car parts and plastics on a giant wooden frame, all of which were salvaged from around Metro Vancouver.

Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC
Gian Paolo Mendoza/CBC

"I like the idea of someone, just on their daily commute, seeing it off in the distance and just catching a glimpse of it for a second."  "Just being this little magical moment in the middle of this industrial area where, you know, you don't really see a lot of art or anything like that."

CBC News has agreed to keep Junko's identity confidential at their request to maintain the anonymity of their art.

Junko's work in Montreal also consists primarily of reclaimed, recycled material. It's their first installation on the West Coast, but they said their process was the same as in Montreal — letting the city's rubbish piles inform their work.

"I do have a little bit of a small background in sustainable construction. It's economical as well as environmental. It's sort of the process that I've developed over time.

"Walking around or biking around, just looking on the ground and seeing what I think, collecting things that I find, and then assembling them and trying to create something with them."

'Got a lot of funny looks'

The installation took over a month to produce, according to Junko. They said Vancouver's recycling practices were slightly different than Montreal's, so it took them a while to locate the materials required.

"This is a very clean city," they said, laughing. "It deals with its waste in a certain way."

In a video posted to their Instagram account, Junko showed themselves driving to a garage in Vancouver and picking up the bright yellow car parts that form the majority of the queen bee statue.

"On my search looking for materials and whatnot, I found a garage that worked on yellow taxi cars. They had a whole bunch of yellow car bumpers that they were throwing out.

"I was thinking about different animals, and obviously, it came to mind, a yellow creature … I always want to convey a certain type of form or a certain type of character. With this one, that's obviously themed around a bee."

The artist said they got "a lot of funny looks" as they carted materials to the South Vancouver site on their bicycle, but no one ever interfered with their process, nor did they have any problems designing the piece, apart from some curious pedestrians and bikers.

They said they had no specific message to share with the piece but hoped people would think about wildlife and recycling while forming their own interpretations.

Land owned by TransLink

TransLink, Metro Vancouver's transit authority, owns the land that Queen BX1000 sits on, according to land registry documents.

The City of Vancouver said in a statement that they had no calls from the landowner or residents about the piece.

A spokesperson for TransLink told CBC News the piece "looks very cool," but it did not commission it.

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