Regina artist creates contemporary 'Art for Animals' sculptures in northern Sask.

·3 min read

In the boreal forest of Northern Saskatchewan, a bright pink artificial tree stands out against the muted browns and greens.

Through a trail camera, Jeff Meldrum watches as bears pull at the tree. Whitetail deer giving it a smell as they walk by.

"I've just sort of always been interested in the animals of the forest. They're kind of mysterious," Meldrum said. "I thought it would be interesting to document how the animals are reacting to the sculptures."

The pink tree is part of an ongoing project by Meldrum called Art for Animals. Meldrum has now self-published a book showcasing his project with a humorous take.

Submitted Jeff Meldrum
Submitted Jeff Meldrum

The project started off simply, Meldrum said. In 2017, he had some friends that wanted to move a sculpture they were holding onto. Meldrum said he has some property outside of Choiceland in northern Saskatchewan and suggested they take it up there.

"From there I started building my own sculptures as well and getting a little bit more in tune with the technology and the sort of grew from there," Meldrum said.

The Regina-based artist said he likes to see what the animals can get up to when isn't at his northern property.

"I think that they do a lot more when I'm not around, I think my presence at least sort of inhibits their actions," he said. "Maybe in a way, it kind of allows them to explore and play a little bit more."

Submitted by Jeff Meldrum
Submitted by Jeff Meldrum

Meldrum said to people concerned about him disturbing natural habitats that it's naive to think animals aren't being disrupted by humans and his land is a type of safe haven, especially for bears.

"I don't hurt bears and if they're coming to my property, they're possibly staying away from areas where people are hunting them," he said.

Meldrum said he was surprised to see the bears appreciate the sculptures so much. They seem to have a sense of play, especially with a sculpture that was a rigid yellow tree, he said.

"The veracity in which they destroyed that was pretty surprising. It went from being this like, quite beautiful sculpture … to existing in shambles in about 20 minutes," he said.

Submitted by Jeff Meldrum
Submitted by Jeff Meldrum

He said the bears also critique his work in a way, by showing what they're interested in and not interested in.

Meldrum wanted to use his book to address the good and bad of the contemporary art world.

"Using a satirical voice in the book made it easy to make fun of things, make fun of myself, and make fun of different ideas within the art world," he said.

Submitted by Jeff Meldrum
Submitted by Jeff Meldrum

Meldrum said he printed 100 copies for friends and family and they sold out right away. He then printed more and sold them at the Penny University Bookstore and Mortise and Tenon in Regina.

"I hope that people learn not to take themselves so seriously and just to recognize that animals are capable of a lot more than we give them credit for," Meldrum said. "It's less about elevating animals to the status of humans, and it's more about trying to diminish our viewpoint of ourselves."

Sometimes humans put themselves on a pedestal compared to animals, Meldrum said. He hopes people look at the animals on their own, rather than comparing them to people.

Meldrum said he intends to create more sculptures for the animals and hopes to share his work in a gallery one day.