In the spring of 2006, Michael Binkley was approached by Art Works Gallery in Vancouver, BC, Canada to produce a large public art sculpture for a development being constructed on Sonora Island, BC, Canada. The old Sonora Island Fishing Lodge was bought by London Drugs Ltd. and the company rebuilt it as a spa retreat, called Sea Lion Pointe Resort.
Binkley worked in collaboration with Art Works Gallery and Celine Interiors Inc. The client initially wanted a large swimming sea lion sculpture for their property, and after considering the sculpture weight to building structure ratio, it was decided that the sculpture concept should evolve into a lighter, more airy composition. The subject of an giant oyster shell caught in bull kelp fronds was agreed upon.
Since the Resort’s theme of the ocean was pervasive, Binkley proposed the sculpture to be carved from a variety of limestone from the state of Indiana, USA. This stone has been used widely for architectural purposes. The Empire State Building in New York City is sheathed with this limestone and the Washington Cathedral is made entirely of this stone. The unique quality of this variety of limestone is that tiny sea shell shards and fossils are evident in its sedimentary striations. On a finely finished surface, these details are deceiving to the eye, making one expect to touch a rough surface only to be surprised at how smooth it actually is. Binkley thought it appropriate to carve a sculpture from a material composed of ancient sea shells.
Binkley sculpted the elements of the kelp fronds as if they were gently swaying underwater in the ocean current. The undulating curves of the kelp carry the eye upwards. Within the space between the kelp fronds is suspended a large oyster shell. The sculptor sanded all the surfaces to a smooth finish, then used oil to darken the oyster shell to differentiate is from the kelp fronds.
Binkley composed the sculpture so that there was a strong webbing of stone at the back of the piece to support the weight of the oyster shell and the kelp, without compromising the feeling of lightness created by all the negative space between the fronds. If you look closely, one can see a similarity in the kelp fronds to that of a human hand holding the oyster shell, with thumb and fingers pointing upwards.
The sculpture was successfully delivered and installed in August of 2006 and the client was very pleased with the results.