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Sea Change by Pete Clarkson and Dan Law

"Sea Change" - Tsunami & Marine Debris Installation

Ongoing at Ucluelet Aquarium, Ucluelet BC. In collaboration with artist Dan Law.

The Ukee Aquarium is a "catch and release" aquarium. I'm proud to be part of  this great local institution. The installation was commissioned through a generous grant provided by the Clayoqout Biosphere Trust. The piece was designed to enhance an unused but contemplative space at the rear of the Aquarium. After a number of site visits I finally came up with the basic concept for Sea Change and asked Dan Law to join me. Dan and I are old friends, and I am a huge fan of his art, so I was stoked (and relieved!) when he came on board. 

"Byecatch" - Tsunami & Marine Debris Exhibit

Ongoing, Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver BC

"Byecatch" is both an installation and exhibit. Installed in 2015, it's located by the Pacific Pavilion on the main floor of the Aquarium, it combines tsunami driftage and marine debris  to tell a number of stories. One story is about loss, represented by the assortment of possessions and objects that were carried across the ocean after the Tohoku tsunami. Another story is about connections – recognizing that the oceans connect us all, and that we are all connected to the problem of marine debris pollution. Ultimately I hope people will see a bit of their own lives contained within ‘Byecatch’, and it will challenge them to find ways of addressing the marine debris problem and contribute to healthier oceans. Thanks to fellow Tofino artist Jan Janzen for his assistance on this installation. Check out the "message in a boat" blog for another incredible connection vis a vis the Tohoku tsunami. Mr. Saski, a young fisherman from Ofunato, Japan was invited to view the "Byecatch" exhibit while en-route to Klemtu BC coast where he was to be reunited with the boat he lost in the tsunami. Amazingly, Mr. Saski recognized the name on one of the baskets used in the exhibit as that of a neighbouring fisherman in Japan.  



"Swept Away" - Tohoku Tsunami Memorial

Ongoing, Tofino Botanical Gardens, Tofino BC

Thanks to George Patterson, Director of the Tofino Botanical Gardens (TBG), I now have  a beautiful home for the tsunami memorial. George has been planning to include a Japanese garden in the TBG, acknowledging the deep Japanese roots in this area. Installed in the fall of 2014, the memorial/garden site is located in a natural clearing surrounded by sword ferns, huckleberry bushes and old growth cedar snags, which just peaks out onto the Tofino Mudflats. The site, combined with my work on the Field Trip project, inspired me to revise the original memorial design. The new design incorporates a number of the tsunami artefacts I've collected such as house timbers, floats, pallets, etc.., recreating a wave of debris sweeping through the forest. I'm envisioning a pop art meets landscape art assemblage that honours the tsunami tragedy while reminding us of our own vulnerability.

Tourism Tofino Kiosk - Tofino BC

Ongoing at the Tourism Tofino Information Kiosk in downtown Tofino.  

This installation was commissioned by Tourism Tofino in 2016 for their tiny downtown kiosk and includes the "Surf Fin Waves", "Tofino Surfboard" and "(There's) plenty of fish in the sea". The installation is removed when the kiosk closes for the winter, and reinstalled each summer. 

Past Projects

"The Art of Marine Debris" - Tofino BC

2014-2019 Jamie's Rainforest Inn, Tofino BC

This exhibit was initially featured as part of the 2014 Pacific Rim Whale Festival but just kept getting extended by the good folks at the Rainforest Inn. The Inn was sold in 2019 and the exhibit has been relocated to my studio. The exhibit featured a mix of old and new work. The new work includes a set of 6 masks ("The People we Meet"), a crab float sculpture ("Cormorant Steals the Ball") and and a work comprised of 2 plastic pallets ("Palletive Care") lost in the Japanese tsunami. This last work was dismantled after the Whale Fest to free up space at the Inn.

"Daily Catch" - Globe Conference 2016, BC

March 1-4 2016, Vancouver Convention Centre, Vancouver BC

I am indebted to the Globe Conference organizers and Vancouver Aquarium for supporting the installation of "Daily Catch" for the 2016 Globe Conference at the Vancouver Convention Centre. The installation was in a high profile public space along the main corridor into the conference halls, Canada Place and the Pan Pacific Hotel.  I tried to portray the story of plastic breaking down in the ocean to become ever smaller bits of micro-plastic. The debris used in the work also represented the amount removed last year from 100 m of shoreline along the West Coast Trail. I didn't have a good name for the piece until an old sea salt walked by as I was setting up and asked if it was the "daily catch". Perfect! We also set up a monitor beside the piece that looped the inspiring new Great Canadian Shoreline Clean Up video shot during the 2015 clean up on the West Coast Trail. The video was a great compliment to the peice, showing the debris in the exhibit as it was originally found and collected from the beach. 

"Debris" World Premiere - VIFF

Sept 24 -Oct 9, 2015 Vancouver International Film Festival, Vancouver BC

I am proud to announce that NFB's short documentary "Debris", directed by John Bolton, has been selected to premiere at VIFF 2015. The film tells the story behind the inspiration and creation of "Swept Away", the Tohoku Tsunami memorial I recently installed at the Tofino Botanical Gardens. The film has 3 showings and received the honour of being selected to appear along with "Haida Gwaii", an award winning feature-length documentary about the Haida people and their relationship with the world. The official premiere is Sept. 29 at the Vancouver Playhouse. Congrats to John B, his talented crew and the gang at NFB. The film will be featured at a variety of venues over the next year. Watch my website or follow the NFB for an up-to-date schedule of showings.



Lost and Found" World Premiere - PDXFF

Sept 1-7, 2015 Portland Film Festival, Portland, Oregon

"Lost and Found", the much anticipated feature length documentary by Canadian filmmakers Nicolina Lanni and John Choi, had it's premiere at the Portland Film Festival. The filmmakers and some of the film's participants, including myself and the Baxter family from Alaska were in attendence. The beautifully crafted film tells an uplifting and powerful story - of strangers coming together to salvage memories from the debris and how their lives are forever changed in the process.  The film will be featured at a variety of film festivals and theatres over the next year, prior to its TV debut on Global in 2016. Contact the filmmakers to arrange a screening in your community and watch their website for show dates and locations. Don't miss it!!



Marine Debris Christmas Tree 

Xmas Holiday Feature - Vancouver Aquarium, Vancouver BC

I've wanted to create a christmas tree from debris ever since admiring the big tree adorned with buoys in my friend Mary Christmas' yard (yes, that's her real name). Mary is a local beachcombing legend in Ucluelet and Tofino. The material for the tree was collected off the West Coast Trail with the help of a keen crew of Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup volunteers. We removed 4 tons of debris. The 18' tall "tree" is fashioned from discarded green fishing net, includes 100 fishing buoys as  "presents"  and is decorated with 200 plastic debris objects as "ornaments". Along with my son Jesse and his friend Vanya Law we erected the tree underneath the giant globe in the Aquarium's main entrance hall. It was really rewarding to see the visitors connect with the exhibit. Jesse and Vanya added their own special touches, which really spoke to the kids. Thankfully we double secured everything because it was too enticing for the kids to pass up. Jesse's main goal was to make people smile, which pretty well sums up the project.


"Debris" - NFB Documentary by John Bolton 

Tofino, 2014, premiered at VIFF in Oct 2015

Vancouver Filmmaker John Bolton (Opus 59 Films) approachd me after a presentation at the Vancouver Aqaurium about my art and desire to  create a tsunami memorial. John subsequently developed a proposal for "Debris", a 15 minute documentary about the creation of, and inspiration behind the memorial. He successfully pitched the idea to the National Film Board (NFB). Shooting is taking place in Tofino during August and November.  I'm really excited to be working with John, as we share a common interest in presenting the stories and emotions behind the memorial. Of course having the NFB's support is also a great honour - such an iconic Canadian institution and documentary world leader. We'll make Norman McLaren proud. Stay tuned...



The Vinyl Cafe with Stuart McLean - Interview

Tofino, February 2015 

I had the incredible opportunity of linking up with CBC radio icon Stuart McLean, one of Canada's great humourists. Stuart was in Tofino researching his opening monologue for a Vinyl Cafe episode being broadcasted from Tofino. He and his producer Jess were heading out on a hike with friend and local naturalist extrordinaire Bob Hansen, who invited me along for a beachcomber's perspective.  Bob and I both showed up with glass balls in hand and did our best as they peppered us with questions ("What colour is that wave", "How would you describe that sound" "What makes this area special"), diligently recording everything in their notebooks. A few days later, they delivered (and taped) the live show to an appreciative audience in Tofino's tiny Clayoquot Theatre. It was as much fun to watch Stuart's animated performance as listen to his eloquent writing. It was also very moving to hear him reference the story of the pallet that washed ashore here and was returned to Japan. A couple of quotes that really stood out for me - "Nothing comes from nowhere" and "The ocean that keeps us apart also brings us together." Many thanks to Bob Hansen for bringing me along and to Stuart and Jess for their insatiable curiousity and good humour. It was an experience I'll always cherish. To hear the broadcast check out the Feb 21, 2015 episode on the CBC Radio and Vinyl Cafe websites entitled "Murphy's Signature".    



pallet returned to Japan

Return of the Pallet, Canada to Japan

March 2014 - Nov 2014, BC & Japan 

Ironically, after I took down the Palletive Care piece at Jamie's Inn, I received word that the owner of the pallet had seen a picture of it posted by the Japanese student who originally found it during a shoreline clean up here in March 2014. It  belongs to an oyster farmer who comes from a long line of fishermen in the Minami Sanriku region The pallet was passed down to him by his Dad, and is all that remains of his family's original fishing gear. Thanks to Hanako from Japan Love, and the good folks at Japan Air Lines, the pallet was reunited with the fisherman in August. Talk about a living memorial. What a journey! Amazingly, a second pallet belonging to same fisherman washed ashore on Long Beach in November 2014. 

japanese school backpack

The Field Trip Project, various artists

June - Sept 2014, BC Maritime Museum, Victoria, BC    

I was fortunate to have my submission "Swept Away" selected as part of this inspiring and novel project. Along with a number of other contemprary Canadian artists our work will be exhibited at the BC Maritime Museum in Victoria, BC. starting in late June, 2014.

The Field Trip Project is a mobile/ participatory/ interactive art exhibition using Japanese elementary school backpacks. At the end of the school year in March 2012, unused disaster relief supplies provided to students at the Onagawa Daiichi Junior High School were  to be donated to developing countries or sent to the landfill.  Toronto based visual artist Daisuke Takeya with Chie Kajiwara, an Onagawa based art teacher, suggested an alternative use for the Japanese elementary school backpacks among the surplus. A number of these backpacks were sent to Canada to be transformed by Canadian artists into a mobile art exhibition connecting people and communities.


pete's art

"Lost and Found" Documentary

2013-15, Various locations in Japan, Canada, and the USA

I was approached to particpate in "Lost and Found", a documentary currently in production by John Choi and Nicolina Lanni. The documentary will tell the personal stories behind the tsunami debris items being found. Here's a brief description from their website: "Strangers, continents apart, are coming together to salvage the memories amid the debris. Discover the stories of the people whose lives will forever be changed." www.lostandfoundthefilm.ca"

John and Nicolina spent a week in Sept. filming in Tofino then headed to Washington where I joined them at John Anderson's oceanfront cabin near Queets. John is renowned as the "King of Beachcombers" and is being featured in the film.  We also visited John's "Beachcomber Museum" at his home in The Forks -  an incredible collection worthy of its own documentary. John is also a flotsam artist who constructed a monumental tower of floats built in honour Amos Wood, a famous beachcomber, glass ball guru, and author. Amos was a friend and mentor of John's. 

In late October, John Anderson and I travelled to Japan for 2 weeks where our experiences were captured on film as we visited people and places affected by the tsunami. John had a number of items he sought to return including a couple of signed balls. I was introduced to a number of artists, including Fujiwara-san, a carpenter who specialized in traditional Japanese house building. We also sought inspiration by visiting some of the tsunami memorials created after the tragedy. 

After 2 years in the making, filming wrapped up in November. John and Nicolina hope to have the film completed for release in 2015. 

Vancouver Aquarium - "From Garbage to Art"

July 1 – Oct 30, 2013


“From Garbage to Art” Exhibit in collaboration with the Vancouver Aquarium and the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-up. The exhibit features the premiere of the "Float’em Pole”, a 20’ totem constructed of marine debris, including a float linked to the Japanese Tsunami.

The Float'em Pole


The “Float’em Pole” is located by the north entrance to the Aquarium. It sits adjacent to the temporary home of Bill Reid’s monumental Killer Whale sculpture. You can see the whale’s dorsal fin looming up from behind the pole. I bet Bill would be smiling.

Bill Reid's KillerWhale and the Float'em Pole



The exhibit also includes four of my wall mounted works, which are located inside then Aquarium by the underwater dolphin viewing area. These particular pieces were chosen by the Aquarium for their water and wildlife themes, and feature a range of my work from 2005 to 2012. The exhibit celebrates the 20th Anniversary of the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup Program and hopes to recruit more volunteers to the program.


Absolutely Oystercatcher on display at From Garbage to Art


 Tofino Sea Kayaking Storefront Commission

July 2014

I was asked to do a storefront piece for the Tofino Sea Kayaking & Wildside Bookstore. The work celebrates the 25th Anniversary of Tofino Sea Kayaking and the 2013 designation of the Tofino Mudflats as a member of the Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network. The work, entitled "Shoreburden" (see below), is now on exhibit at Tofino Sea Kayaking.  


A newe woirk by Pete to go up at the Tofino Sea Kayaking storefront