Several years ago I had used one of the large hay fields at Woodwynn Farms to create a simple line drawing of a mother and child in support of children’s rights in war zones. We moved the cut hay to form the lines of the drawing.
I spent many years after that project focused on peace issues. My trips to Iraq left me emotionally exhausted and it took a long time to overcome the sadness I felt after witnessing the suffering in our world.
My art has always provided me with some sort of solace and when the idea of creating a sculpture park came to mind, my thoughts turned to Woodwynn Farms once again.
Woodwynn Farms is a 193 acre organic farm in Central Saanich, BC. It is a therapeutic community for the homeless, offering an opportunity to change peoples’ lives with educational and work programmes based on responsibility, dignity, independence and the principles of peer-to-peer help.
It seemed like a perfect match for my peace sanctuary sculpture park and after meeting with the director of the farm, Richard LeBlanc, he agreed to the idea of setting aside close to one acre of land for my work. Richard mentioned that he would like to see a few things incorporated into the plan. He wanted an emphasis on herbs, berries, and edible plants as much as possible in the overall design. He also mentioned the idea of a Labyrinth and a reflexology path. These points fit in well with everything I valued and we started work immediately clearing the first blackberry bushes that covered much of the site.
We had a lot of help from students from U Vic and my wife, Elizabeth and I have been working most days clearing the first section and making plans for the rest of the site. It is very much a team project. My son Samuel has helped as well.
Visitors to the farm will follow a path towards the first section we are working on at this time. They will enjoy a rest on a bench built from logs taken from the beach, nestled quietly in a thicket of red twig dogwood This path then leads down between rows of apple trees towards views of the beautiful valley stretching before the visitor. Sculptures will be placed strategically around the area.
Inviting paths will lead people around the site until they come upon the main feature Labyrinth where people will be invited to remove their shoes and walk barefoot so that they will be able to enjoy the various textured surfaces of the path. There will be a little shelf under a long bench for people to place their shoes while they do the walk.
Labyrinths are not like a maze. A maze is confusing. Labyrinth’s on the other hand, are a place where you can’t get lost. You simply follow the path and trust the process. It is a metaphor for life. They have been around for several thousand years. People find inner peace by taking time out from their busy lives and reflecting on their path. This idea of healing fits perfectly with the work at Woodwynn Farms and so we will be placing a great emphasis on this idea in our design.
The entire project will take another two years and work will be ongoing for years to come after that I imagine. It will take time for the small apple trees that we have planted to grow. The main Labyrinth area is still a pile of dirt and weeds at this time but that will change this summer and one will see a transformation. It all takes time and a willingness to trust the process.
Everything is fairly bare right now but things will grow over time and we are excited to see it all happen. Woodwynn Farms treats everyone with dignity, respect and compassion. It is a pleasure to be a part of this amazing place that reaches out to people who need help getting their lives back.
We are building this project because we feel it will provide a place for reflection and peace for everyone. My hope as an artist is that the site will draw people onto the farm to experience what has been created and learn more about what the people on the farm are about.
When I visited the Ameriyah bomb shelter in Baghdad where several hundred men, women and children had died, I came away heartbroken. Working on this project has helped me in so many ways. We invite locals and interested visitors to keep track of this project as it develops.
Guest Author Bio – Deryk Houston
Canadian/Scottish artist, Deryk Houston resides in Victoria, B.C., Canada, and has exhibited internationally. He has mounted one man exhibitions in Canada, the USA, Scotland, Iraq, and the former Soviet Union.
His work was featured in the documentary film “From Baghdad to Peace Country” by the National Film Board of Canada.
He has completed ground art, earthen works in Iraq, Canada and Scotland, in support of children’s rights.
Blog / Website: Deryk Houston’s Art Gallery