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Miho Takaya. "Environs Inspire Local Artists", The Toronto Observer. March 19, 2008

Environs inspire local artists
By Miho Takaya
Filed March 19, 2008, from the HP Science and Technology Centre

Artist Mae Leong made her art piece, called "Plastic Jungle" by using shopping bags from supermarkets in order to let people know the necessity of recycling.

Artist Mae Leong made her art piece, called "Plastic Jungle" by using shopping bags from supermarkets in order to let people know the necessity of recycling.

All of those plastic bags we use might be useful for at least one artist in Scarborough.

Mae Leong decided to collect plastic bags two years ago for making her artwork because she thought they are an icon of our culture.

And this year, she finally created a tree-shaped sculptural art piece using those recycled bags, called "Plastic Jungle."

"As an artist, I wanted to tell people that the whole world should reconsider our shopping culture and it’s consuming," Leong said. "So, it’s a sarcastic piece of work."

Her piece is displayed at Environs: Scarborough Arts Council Annual Juried Art Exhibition, a new installation at the Hin-Shiu Hung Art Gallery, running at the Chinese Cultural Centre until March 17.

It serves not only as an opportunity for new artists to express their creativity, but also breathes new meaning and a refreshing perspective on the environmental issue.

"It’s great to promote artwork in Scarborough every year because the majority of the galleries are downtown," said Tim Whalley, program coordinator at the Scarborough Arts Council. "Our exhibition gives a chance for artists from Scarborough, the GTA and across Canada and the U.S. to show up their work."

About 30 art pieces were selected from a wide range of submissions that together show how artists integrate their ideas of not only the natural environment, but also the environment that artists find themselves in their daily life.

"The theme of Environs was interpreted in different ways with different materials, which I really am interested in because it’s such a big subject," said artist Nicole Collins who judged the art pieces in this contest. "I was pretty impressed with the diversity of works."

Various forms of art including photography, sculpture, painting and video installation are currently displayed in the gallery.

Artist Sarah Cullen, a recipient of the exhibition’s D. L. Stevenson Ltd. Award for Art, created her own "mapping and drawing device" with the installation of wire, pencil, and a piece of paper into a portable box.

Carrying it out to downtown Toronto, the top of a mountain in Alberta, and even Italy, her eight pieces of artwork show their own original environment.

"Whenever I walk around, it creates the traces of my path which are from different places and different times," Cullen said.

"Walking and artist become the big theme.

"Like a diary, they show what happened on each journey," she added. "It’s about me experiencing, negotiating or compromising my environment in walking."

Whalley says he hopes many residents in Scarborough visit the exhibition.

"[The artists’] works are very strong and it’s something for everyone," he said. "People will really be surprised by what they see and they will really find that enjoyable."