The Environment is a Canvas 

Sharon Kallis weaves the natural world into her art. 

Ben Jacobs // Contributor  

Environmental artist Sharon Kallis has dedicated many years of her life to perfecting her artform. To her, environmental art is about engaging and collaborating with nature. Instead of putting a sculpture amidst nature, Kallis enhances nature, so her art becomes part of its surroundings instead. “[It’s] a tool to introduce people to environmental awareness,” she said.  

Often, people don’t think art and nature can come together. However, it is possible for these two to converge. Environmental art encompasses various styles and perspectives in order to represent nature. Artists from all over the world have explored their relationship with the environment and have showcased it in their art, and this is where Kallis stands out. 

Kallis gathers materials that blend into the environment and weaves them into an image that conveys a message. Often, the artwork Kallis creates carries a message about environmental or social issues. When working as an environmental artist, Kallis clarifies, first, each piece of art needs to communicate a message and second, the materials need to be harmless to the environment.  

Kallis moved to Vancouver in her early twenties. Today, she wishes to learn the most she can about the Coast Salish people so she can appreciate the environment she is in. Overall, environmental art grants people an opportunity to express their creativity while also contributing to their community in a sustainable way. Not only can artists like Kallis spread various messages through experimental artwork, but people are able to get involved and become environmental artists themselves. Upcoming events, such as the Vines Festival in August, led by Artistic Director Heather Lamoureux, gifts people the opportunity to try environmental art and get involved with this innovative art style. This festival helps people to participate in current social and sustainability issues while also allowing them to express themselves through art.  

Kallis enjoys environmental art because of its ability to create connections with people all around the world. She focuses on traditional, hand technology, such as weaving. Her 2012 coil bound piece named “Community Wall Repair”, which involved biodegradable local materials on a site in Real del Monte, Mexico, is a great example of her weaving work. This piece fixes the opening and embellishes it in the process.  

In addition, the “Grooming the Land” piece Kallis created in Cacis, Catalunya, transforms the grass of the field into a french braid style weaving, making it look like ropes. When speaking about this piece, Sharon Kallis said these types of projects “[can create] opportunities to do even bigger projects [and] find connections.” To date, Sharon is working with EartHand Society to share her skills and knowledge and learn together with an exciting community. In addition to her art, Kallis enjoys making clothing and employs this skill to open a space for cultural exchange.  

“[I spend] much time organizing events that use textile-related methods to create a social container – the space and context for something collective to unfold,” she said. With this type of art, she desires to portray the struggle of how fast something is made and how little the worker is paid in the creation process. She wishes to shine a light towards the sacrifices of making clothing by hand. Her goal is to create awareness around how important it is to grant artists a sense of accomplishment through supporting their handmade products. She believes the different relationships to place and people can evolve through this wonderful textile-based interaction. 

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