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My practice encompasses a variety of experimental processes that animate both natural and constructed environments, seeking to form connections between culture, nature and place. I am concerned with how physical, tactile interactions in nature can shape our inner experiences and understanding of the world. I currently live and work in Lethbridge, Alberta, Canada.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

A Walk in Pavan Park on Remembrance Day

Walking in Pavan Park on Remembrance day. Hundreds of Canada Geese rest along the shore in the open water of the nearby Oldman river. The sound of honking geese echoes throughout the river valley. I find a small nest and place yellow berries and rose hips in the nest. I walk to the end of a path and place it on a log. On my way back I am curious to see if snow will stick to a cottonwood without bark. It does, so I create this intervention.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

An essay written by Nicole Ensing on my exhibition, Process, Place and Perception at the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art in Kelowna B.C

Too often we define nature as a separate entity from humans, ignoring that we are a part of the natural world. In Process, Place, Perception, Troy Nickle’s thoughtful installations bring a fresh nuance to our understanding of natural processes and what we interpret as art.  Nickle challenges our connection with nature and culture, bridging the gaps in our relationships with the natural world. 

Nickle’s body of work has an understanding of the ecosystem from which it was formed; he acknowledges environmental impact and future implications through his choice of materials. The many materials used in his pieces are not chosen on a whim, but are part of his artistic process. Nickle encounters the materials, like the plant species goldenrod, yarrow, or wild rose (some of the many species used in his installation) on walks and hikes while exploring Lethbridge or other parts of southern Alberta. He makes his selection, but waits until the individual plant has set its seed and dried and only then does he take a portion for his work.

Some of these plants are found in After the First Snow Fall, in which Nickle has situated twenty-six pieces (12 distinctive species) of dried plants such that they extrude from the wall as if reaching out to the viewer. Numerous shadows feather out from the lifeless plants in a spirited fashion, mimicking the life that once existed. This piece disrupts the usual interactions we have with plants, often looked down upon by us, but now facing us at eye level, inviting us in. By challenging our normal perception of the natural world, Nickle has highlighted our general disregard for those small plants and the value they hold.

Similarly, Goldenrod Doodle, reaches out from the wall, although the twisted goldenrod has taken on a new form. Due to a fly larva, an engorged gull is now a part of each plant, the plants are twisted and gnarly as if ignoring the shape and order imposed upon it on the wall. Nickle’s arrangement of the materials provides the viewer with a new way of seeing. By elevating and creating structure with the natural materials within the gallery, it challenges the viewer to change their perception of what art can be.

His piece, Endless, stands in the corner of the gallery as if a somber reminder of the past and of things to come. Endless pays homage to The Endless Column by Constantin Brâncuși, symbolizing "Infinite Sacrifice.” Reflecting Brâncuși in form, Endless is a tower of rhomboidal shapes, constructed with drift wood pieces. Nickle’s sculpture brings a material like wood to the forefront, a material that can break down, illuminating the ceaseless ephemeral processes of nature. The structure itself is reflective, possibly symbolizing a stupa (Buddhist shrine), or simply bestowing the gallery with a drift wood cairn. It is this uncertainty that context can impose, thus the viewer is encouraged to take from their own experience, and to think carefully about what the shape, structure, and materials mean to them.

In Process, Place, Perception, Troy Nickle’s installations echo a spiritual sense of understanding; each piece is contemplative and meditative, and open to interpretation. Nickle has put our interactions with nature at the fore, questioning our understanding of life, and our role within it. Nickle provides us with opportunity to look upon nature in an altered context, re-envisioning our relationship to the natural world.

Essay by Nicole Ensing



All images and artwork by Troy Nickle

This work titled, "All Time is Now," was part of the public space component of my exhibition with the Alternator Centre for Contemporary Art. The work was situated at the Woodhaven Nature Conservancy Regional Park in Kelowna, B.C.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Making paper with Common Tansy

This work is a the result of the Aldo & Leonardo Wilderness Science and Art Collaboration that took place in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, (BWCAW) of northern Minnesota, U.S. During the residency I accompanied Forest Ecologist Jack Greenlee, his assistant Becca Orf and fellow artist Anaya Cullen who was also doing the residency on a four day canoe trip in the BWCAW. Jack and Becca are working in the BWCAW to monitor and mitigate invasive plants. The work that they undertake involves paddling out to the many campsites along the network of lakes within the Boundary Waters to check the progress of invasive plants, map their locations and pull the plants. The plants that they target are not native to the area, and were usually introduced during European settlement. I learned many of these plants reproduce rapidly and cause major changes to areas where they become established. Some of the invasive plants in the BWCAW include buck thorn, St. Johns wort, Canada thistle, common tansy, hawkweed, spotted knapweed, ox eye daisy, leafy spurge and purple loosestrife to name a few.

I began to consider how I could use invasive plants to make an artwork and build on awareness of these invaders. I decided to try to make paper. Pulling and collecting an invasive plant for paper making would mitigate the population while the material could be transformed into an artwork.  Under Jack's direction I found a patch of common tansy on the outskirts of the town of Ely, Minnesota. The tansy was a terrible plant for making paper, the stalk is really woody and there is not much fibre in the leaves or flowers so the paper I made is quite rough and textured. After several runs I was able to make a rough sheet of paper from the tansy. When I arrived back in Canada, In the winter, I painted an illustration of the common tansy on the handmade paper with its Latin name, Tanacetum vulgare in water-colour. 


Monday, May 19, 2014

Crowsnest River Stone Circle

May 18. Working along the Crowsnest river near Lundbreck Falls, Alberta. The river runs high due to mountain run off. I see an opportunity to create an intervention on an outcrop of deposited sediment where there are a variety of coloured stones to choose from. I begin by collecting hazel coloured stones and assemble them into a square. I collect sand coloured stones next and assemble them into a circle and around the hazel coloured stones. I follow that by placing light coloured blues stones on the outside of the circle. The constant sound of the river is calming, there is no wind and the sun is warm. A large group of Kayakers paddle by while I am working. I hear a bird with a beautiful song and a bird that lives along the river flies back and forth just above the waters surface while chirping.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Around the Center

During my residency organized by the Colorado Art Ranch, in collaboration with the Aldo Leopold Research Institute I created an intervention titled, “ Around the Center,” which was made in the Superior National Forest on a large stone along a path between the Ranger Station and the Vermillion College in Ely, Minnesota.

I started to contemplate the symbolic nature of this work and could relate it to when a stone is thrown in the water and ripples expand outward around the stone’s impact in the water. The stone’s impact creates energy and this energy radiates outward. This to me this also represented the energy created by the artists and scientists when they were able to learn about each other’s disciplines, collaborate and share common interests in nature.

From the creation of this work I began to consider what is at the center of my experiences in this unique place, and what surrounds this center? It is really absurd to try to define this center as a fixed thing because reality is continually changing from moment to moment. All phenomena are impermanent and therefore subject to change. What once was at the center of my experience has since dissolved with each new moment and as I have begun to intellectualize it, it is no longer what it was. Things begin to disintegrate and suddenly we realize that they do not exist in a fixed manner or exist independently but rather they exist in relation to, and in dependence on everything and are therefore interconnected. At the time that I am writing this, the ephemeral artwork that I have created has since devolved back into the environment and is no longer recognizable as an artwork.

The materials that I have used to create this work came from the needles of a White Pine and mosses that were collected from the shady forest floor. These materials could not exist without the elements of nature in balance creating the right conditions for the vegetation to grow. Without the glaciers that deposited this rock some 10,000 to 12,000 years ago I would not have a site to create this work. The White Pine grows in this area because of the well-drained soil and cool, humid climate of northern Minnesota. These beautiful trees provide food and shelter for numerous animals including, forest birds, squirrels, lynx, and wolves. It also provides cool damp shaded areas for a variety of vegetation like mosses and mushrooms to grow. Many people are drawn to this area to experience this unique beauty. Out canoeing on the water or sitting by the lake there is no need to worry about deadlines or being late for a meeting.  Somehow living in the moment and the simple experience of traveling on water by canoe, setting up camp, cooking dinner by fire and enjoying the sights and sounds of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness feels liberating. When we can stop, breathe, and listen to what is around us, we are more open and receptive to the world around us.

While I was in Ely, I learned that an issue central to many people in the area revolved around the developments of a new mine. The town seemed to be polarized between those that supported the mine for their livelihood and those that were worried that the mine would affect the environment by bringing changes to the area that were damaging and irreversible. Many people depend on the area for a variety of things in order to sustain a livelihood. The mining companies depend on the valuable minerals in the bedrock while people who are supported by tourism depend on the landscape and wildlife for recreation activities such as canoeing, backpacking, dogsledding, fishing and hunting.  I began to think since everyone depends on the land and it’s central to the health and livelihood of everyone, isn’t preserving the landscape in everybody’s best interests both sustainably and economically? As Chief Seattle said, “Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. All things are bound together. All things connect.” The development of the mine would permanently alter the landscape; affect water and air quality and take hundreds of years to fully recover. Does this outweigh the benefits that the mine will bring to the community? Are there other ways of creating jobs that won’t negatively affect the environment? And what are the prevailing attitudes that justify the development of a mine in this area? Aldo Leopold writes, “We abuse land because we regard it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”

As a stone strikes the water and creates energy, this unique residency allowed for artists and scientists to bridge creativity with observation and research.  While residing in Ely, Minnesota during our residency we learned of the complex issues regarding this unique community and have grown from our shared experiences. From our varied perspectives we are creating new energy to move forward to inspire others to be concerned about the future of our planet, to become aware of our environment and to bridge gaps between the divisions that separate us.

Photograph by Lawson Gerdes
A photo of artists Anaya Cullen (left), Troy Nickle (center) and Katherine Ball (right), at Sigurd Olsen's cabin near Ely, Minnesota.
This post is also shown on the Aldo & Leonardo blog found here: