The Raven Lady stands proudly as you drive through town, somehow an embodiment of both the natural world surrounding Ucluelet but also of her people, and of their love and appreciation for the wilderness we call home.
Mike Camp, the artist, describes her as a modern interpretation of an empowered wild woman, a steely representation of the feminine that required 2000 hours to construct. She is a human figure sculpted in the European tradition and fatefully placed in the center of town much in the same way sculptural figures are focal points for community in European city centers.
Response to the sculpture was initially lukewarm; the city of Tofino asked Mike to move the sculpture because they needed the lot for development, and it subsequently found it’s way to Ucluelet. Purchased by Ron Burley for a modest sum, the sculpture is now prominently displayed as you drive through town, beckoning visitors and locals alike to engage with the wilderness at our doorstep.
Mike alludes to the idea of reconnecting with our inner feminine, both in our treatment of mother earth but also in ourselves, and how the figure might be construed as a 500 year maturation, a rebirth from the sea of the venus archetype. The sculpture harkens to the first meeting between humanity and the animal world, of that awakening of a new consciousness, of our interconnectedness now and for always.
Mike Camp’s sculptural works invites people to engage; with each other, with the piece itself, and with the place that inspires the work… as Mike puts it “if you can’t touch it it’s not sculpture”. He says that artists really need to spend time in the environment that they are trying to capture; he spent many years in a cabin he built on Cypress Bay, just outside of Tofino. Clam digging, fishing, crabbing and oyster picking were all part of his daily life, as were the ravens and eagles that call this part of the world home.
In his career as an artist, this is the first time anyone has shown such interest in his work; he expressed a deep appreciation for the people of Ucluelet for welcoming The Raven Lady as part of their community. But the story of the The Raven Lady is really just the beginning of this tale, the inspiring catalyst for what is to come.
Mike Camp has returned to Ucluelet, this time to exhibit the best of his 40 years of painting, inspired by the natural world in which he immersed himself. The work spans his time spent living on Cypress bay, but also encompasses many years spent in the Yukon, Northern BC, Northern Manitoba and Northern Ontario, where Mike now lives.
Commissioned by Bruce and Monique Schmaltz, the new owners of the property, he will also be installing an exciting outdoor sculptural work destined to grace the newly renovated RAVENLADY site.
The newly commission work, crafted in stainless steel, will take the form of a tree upon which visitors and locals alike can hang oysters shells with messages written upon them. Perhaps the simple act of hanging an inscribed shell on the new sculpture will inspire those who take the time to appreciate the messages in the future, capturing something of the ethos of Ucluelet and the spirited nature of her people.
Taking the name of The Raven Lady in reverence for the natural world, the site now also hosts the newest addition to the Ucluelet food scene, RAVENLADY Oyster Forté food truck. Chef Michael “Mickey” Phayer is serving up oysters in a myriad of preparations; from freshly shucked to smoked, to battered in crispy panko and dipped in aoli; Uclueutians now have a oyster focused culinary experience to add to the burgeoning food culture here on the coast.
Bruce and Monique are creating a space that invites artistic collaboration, and are currently accepting applications for summer buskers, dancers and performers of the creative arts.
This is an open invitation to the community; to come down and enjoy the sunshine on one of the new benches in the space, to witness the progression of Mike’s work and to hang messages in the tree (once the work has been completed), and to enjoy the over 40 years of work exhibited inside.
The exhibit, aptly named ‘The Wanderer’- will be open to the public from April 14th to the 26th, with a public reception and open house on Thursday the 16th, from 4-8pm. Libations and light snacks will be provided during the open house; however, the community is invited to come view the exhibit anytime from 12-7pm during the last two weeks of April.
The Wanderer’s Tree is meant to celebrate the wandering soul in each of us, to capture a sense of the journeys we have all taken to get here, the hopes and dreams of the community, and adventure that lies before us. Bruce and Monique are asking that a token donation be made to a local charity if folks wish to hang an oyster shell message; suggestions from the community are welcome but currently there is talk of supporting the great work being done by the Wild Pacific Trail Society, or other community organizations working to build happy, healthy communities by bringing people together through arts and culture.
In a small town at the end of the road the hardy Ucluetians need all the help we can get; coming together in the fantastic new community space at RAVENLADY to appreciate some great food and celebrate the work of a Canadian artist that we should all be proud of seems like a great place to begin.
Written by: Alexander McNaughon