When Hay Meets High Art

When Hay Meets High Art

Installations and Photography by Becka Viau

Canadian artist Becka Viau’s muse is agriculture.

Her past projects include an interactive photo project about young farmers and installation art inspired by robotic milkers. Starting in May, she’ll adorn hay bales on working farms across Prince Edward Island with lush arrangements of living flowers for her “Agrarian Monuments” installation series.

Monument (Pedestrian view), 2014. Living installation, Charlottetown, PE. Materials: 8 Round Hay Bales.
Monument (Street view), 2014. Living installation, Charlottetown, PE. Materials: 8 Round Hay Bales.
Monument (Detail), 2014. Living installation, Charlottetown, PE. Materials: 8 Round Hay Bales.

    The flowers will live, die and deteriorate depending on weather conditions. “Hay bales are this romantic symbol of pastoralism, but the hay bale is a manufactured object. It takes a very specific type of machine to make this specific type of bale,” says Viau, who threaded dozens of perfect red roses into a prototype last year.

    Hay Bale, 2011. Living installation, Halifax, NS. Materials: Round Hay Bale.
    43 Head of Cattle: 2,570 Gallons of Milk: 10,278,400 Gallons of Water, 2011. Kinetic Living Sculpture, Halifax, NS. Materials: Rectangular Hay Bales, Red Roses, Brass pipe, Brass cow bells, twine, fountain pump, 'milk,' tin buckets.

      Her work is a reaction to landscape painters who use bales as romantic symbols for agrarian life. Yes, hers will be pretty, too, but they will also highlight the cycle of life and death on a farm. It will be beautiful, but will also have the “feeling of a graveyard,” says Viau.

       Young Farmers: Mathias Drake, 2009. Millview, PE. Materials: Photograph.
      Young Farmers: Sally Bernard, 2009. Lower Freetown, PE. Materials: Photograph.