KC Wilcox transforms the things we left behind on beach day into luminous sculptures

From pop cans to chocolate bar wrappers, KC Wilcox treats each piece of trash like a treasure - and points to our own responsibility to the land.

"I’ve always felt deeply attached to objects throughout my life – I’ve always been a collector of things."

If you've ever visited the ocean, you probably have fond memories of roaming the beach and collecting things — maybe a captivating stone, a weathered and smooth piece of sea glass or an interesting looking seashell. Saint John visual artist Kasie (KC) Wilcox has been spending time near the ocean exploring too recently. But she isn't out collecting stones or shells; she's been collecting trash and transforming it into art for her latest project Shedding.

Wilcox says that her project first began as a reaction to the altered geography and environmental degradation present on Tin Can Beach, near her home in Saint John.

Watch the video:

KC Wilcox is turning our discarded beach waste into translucent sculptures. 4:04

"When I had started thinking about this project two years ago — when it wasn't really a project yet but a bundle of ideas — I was responding to the way Tin Can Beach, the last coastline with natural features on the south-central peninsula and its geography, has been modified by Saint John's industrialized working port," she said.

At the time, Wilcox says, she was seeking evidence of the Anthropocene. She started to make work with the intention that it would be about Tin Can Beach but, as the project developed, the work became a picture of consumer culture and material desires. Working with sculpture and moldmaking, she began casting discarded objects found on the beach in rubber latex.

"I discovered rubber latex from wanting to build a mold from a found object but I never moved past the moldmaking phase, because I became so fascinated with the material quality of rubber latex," she reflects.

Wilcox says that the title Shedding refers to rubber latex and its skin-like texture. It also refers to the act of discarding something, letting go of something, moving past something or forgetting something. She says that in her own life, she's always had a deep attachment to objects, and this attachment to objects is something she's always exploring through her art practice.

"I've always felt deeply attached to objects throughout my life, I've always been a collector of things, and I've always harboured this tenderness toward objects. Even after things are no longer useful, I've wanted to hang onto them for longer, because they held a memory, or a feeling, and I wanted to keep that with me in the physical world."

In this video by filmmaker Matthew Brown with help from Zoë Boyd, you meet WIlcox as she explores and gathers objects at Tin Can Beach in Saint John. Back at her studio, you get a firsthand look at her unique process of moldmaking and casting objects in rubber latex.

"After something is first produced, and circulated, and then consumed, there's this area where a transformation happens, where an object becomes undesired, or it becomes useless, and then it's thrown away. It goes from being a sheltered object, to being an unsheltered object," Wilcox said. "I'm drawn to that because it's something that affects me personally, but also I feel a responsibility to try and unpack what that means, and think about what my day to day actions might mean in a greater sense."

Kasie (KC) Wilcox's installation Sheltered can be seen as part of Third Shift  — Saint John's festival of public contemporary artworks — from Aug. 14-16. 

Stream CBC Arts: Exhibitionists or catch it on CBC Television Friday nights at 11:30pm (12am NT) and Sundays at 3:30pm (4pm NT). Watch more videos here.

About the Author

Matthew Brown is a filmmaker based in New Brunswick. After receiving a Bachelor of Arts from the University of New Brunswick, he studied photography at the New Brunswick College of Craft and Design. He is the creator and producer of Studio Tour, a Bell TV1 show that profiled Atlantic Canadian artists and that aired for four seasons in Atlantic Canada.