The Bruce Trail is a 885 km walk that stretches from Niagara Falls in the south to the port of Tobermory at the northern tip of the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario, Canada. The entire route has been mapped by trail members and is designated as a protected wilderness region within the province. Trail markers in the form of white and blue blaze marks on trees and rocks ensure that hikers don't get lost, the marks indicating by colour, number and positioning which direction the path leads.
This project evolved out of my personal experience walking the Bruce Trial, an activity I have engaged in for over 30 years. However, the impetus for undertaking this interventionist piece came from a well-known work by General Idea who practiced their own form of artistic appropriation by adding three lozenge-shaped touches of colour to trees in a painting by Tom Thomson to create 'Pharmacology', a piece examining the impact of prescription drugs on the gay populace in their fight against AIDS. My own work involved using coloured duct tape to amend and otherwise alter the original blaze marks on the Bruce Trail. I then photographed each of the resulting interventions before returning the marks to their original state.
These works have an abstract quality to them. At their best they enhance the hiking experience causing the viewer to linger and experience the effects that primary colour and geometric form have on the trees and rocks in the surrounding environment. They recall the signature striped blankets of the early explorers of the Hudson's Bay Company and the Slash/Stripe paintings of Canadian colour field painters like Jack Bush from the 1960s. While introducing a whole new way of viewing the trail, my works also temporarily destroy the marking system that is in place thereby suspending the primary intent of the blaze marks which is to guide and keep the hiker safe. Instead, there is the potential for people to become confused or take a wrong turn. There is then a meddlesome, even subversive quality to these works which is at odds with their immediate appearance. Michael