Nickie Lewis began her artistic career in theatre. With her college background, Lewis managed a community theater program for young children at a recreation centre. Six years ago, after discovering a community of people who embraced art and seemed to break down the belief that art needs to be shown in a gallery, and it is something that needs training to do, Lewis was inspired to create art. Working with her husband and friends, Lewis built a large-scale (8’ x 6’) interactive art installation called The Ballsy Rocker, a wooden rocking pirate ship that lights up when rocked from the inside. The project’s tongue-in-cheek reference being, “It takes balls to rock the boat, but when you do, you just might light up the world.” The piece has been displayed at Burning Man and has since been rebuilt and redesigned three times. For the past six years, Lewis has been creating a large-scale installation for display in June and July until the COVID-19 lockdown at which point she determined she needed another way to get her art out to the world.
Large in scale but small environmental impact
For Lewis, it was a struggle to justify the large-scale artworks which consumed so many materials from the Earth and were then disposed of at the end of their life. Lewis was demotivated and dreaded the thought of all the waste she was creating, and this anxiety forced her to reconsider her approach to artmaking. Lewis found her inspiration in the natural environment around her. Her current works are eco-friendly sculptures constructed with cedar sticks and twine. Her mornings are spent collecting sticks from the forests around her Burnaby home. She then spends between two to three hours building her large-scale sculpture between the trees, while taking in the sounds and sights of the surrounding nature.
An unexpected response
Her works will eventually deteriorate and fall back to earth. For Lewis this is an amazing way to feed her artistic needs while sending a message, and possibly a challenge to other artists. Prior to COVID-19, Lewis’ only artistic mission was to create joy and inspire people to find their inner child. She politely says that she has never considered her art having any impact before, but that since making her forest sculptures, people have approached her to express their gratitude and joy about her art. Lewis has witnessed first-hand the powerful influence art can have on individuals.
“I have had people tell [me] stories about how knowing the sculptures are in the woods has helped them get out of the house and pulled them from some dark mental places… THAT tells me that as an artist, I have a responsibility to do good with my art.”
Lewis currently has seven sculptures in Robert Burnaby Park. You can follow her work online at the links below.