For Kim Morgan, the dilapidated range light that used to guide passenger ferries into a Prince Edward Island harbor before the days of the “fixed link” is more than a memory of times past.
“This iconic structure is symbolic of what the community of Borden-Carleton was for so many years-a thriving terminus for the PEI ferry, and a beacon to the island,” says Morgan, who teaches sculpture at NSCAD University. The Confederation Bridge has transformed the town’s economy and the transition has been difficult.
Morgan’s temporary memorial embodies the experience of change and the process of transformation.
Earlier this year, using latex rubber reinforced with mosquito netting, Morgan and a crew of helpers cast imprints of the exterior and interior surfaces of the range light. Embedded in the rubber are flakes of loose paint and faint impressions of graffiti which preserve a haunting trace of the building’s descent from utility into neglect. Sewn together, the interior and exterior sections span sixty feet, incorporating more than 2000 square feet of latex.
Rubber has special properties which enable the artist to realize her concept: “The material acts like a flexible skin which allows me to gather information from the original structure and reconfigure it into a new, unified whole. It not only captures every minute surface detail, it also pulls off all the vulnerable material….Paint, wood, dirt, even the smell from the original structure become part of the new form.” Spectators may be reminded of the mutability of skin as a living surface and sensory organ. The skin-like texture endows the sculpture with a curiously vital, sensual quality, almost a living presence. According to the artist, “As the ghost of a beacon, the installation is meant to be an ephemeral memorial to a maritime symbol, but it’s also a monument to a community in transition, and the potential for positive change.” In fact, since the casting process removed the loose paint, residents of Borden-Carleton recently undertook to repaint and refurbish the range light, rescuing it from its derelict state.
In its paradoxical expression of the relationship between inert materiality and living presence, Kim Morgan’s soft architecture makes an unprecedented contribution to the scope of contemporary sculpture in Atlantic Canada.
Kim Morgan is a sculptor and installation artist whose practice incorporates multiple techniques, materials and technologies. She says of her work, “I’m driven by ideas. Then the medium that I choose and the site that I pick will start to narrow down the type of material that will manifest the idea.”
As Range Light, Borden-Carleton, PEI, 2010 demonstrates, spatial relationships and perceptual experience are among Morgan’s chief interests as an artist. Working in the formats of installation, site-or-context-specific and public art, Morgan often collaborates with engineers and scientists in the creation of interdisciplinary art projects. These works of art explore people’s perceptions of time and place and the shifting boundaries between the public and the private.
Born and raised in Saskatchewan, Morgan received a B.A. in Literature from McGill University, a B.F.A. in Sculpture/Installation from The School of Visual Arts, NYC, and an M.F.A. from the University of Regina. She teaches sculpture and installation at NSCAD University, Halifax.