Slow 'little performance' of winter walkers inspires young Island artist

Alexis Bulman has created an installation about navigating snow-covered streets as part of an emerging artist exhibit at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery in Charlottetown.

A new exhibit at Confederation Centre Art Gallery showcases 4 emerging Island artists

Bulman said her installation is a representation of her walks around town in winter, while the name refers to the way people walk. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

Alexis Bulman loves to watch people walk on snow-covered sidewalks in the winter — so much so that she's created an art installation about it.

On Wednesday, she started piling 200 bags of salt, weighing a total of about 4,000 pounds, at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery.

The piece, which she named Slowly, will be on display at the gallery from Jan. 28 until April 23. It's part of a larger project called New Positions, showcasing a selection of work by four emerging young Island artists.

Bulman said her installation is a representation of her walks around town in winter, while the name refers to the way people walk, "hovering as if to break a fall, always looking down."

"And so I came up with the idea of sidewalk salt," she said.

Watching people navigate on ice

She's also spending time on a lift, painting a route that she recorded with a GPS tracking app along the gallery's wall.

She said the route shows her walking the four blocks around her house in downtown Charlottetown.

On most days, the sidewalks are straight horizontal lines, she said.

But in the winter, when there are ice and snow banks, people walk wherever they can. And that's what her route shows, she said.

"People are forced to walk and be more aware of their surroundings and then, when the sidewalk ploughs come out or salt is spread, it kind of goes back to normal." she said.

Bulman said she had to get her fall prevention safety training for this exhibit. (Matt Rainnie/CBC)

"It's like the eraser for the performance."

She added that Slowly is neither a criticism of winter nor the sidewalks in Charlottetown.

"I love looking out my window in my office and seeing people navigate the sidewalks when there's kind of an obstacle to get over," she said.

"It does create this little performance that you get to see for only a short period of time."

Opportunity to showcase work

Bulman will spend the days leading up to the exhibition building a mountain of salt bags inside the gallery that she hopes will be visible over the gallery walls.

Once complete, it should be about five feet tall, she said.

While she's not comfortable with heights, she said it's great being the one on the lift who gets to install a piece of art.

Bulman graduated from NSCAD in 2013 and is probably best known for a documentary she filmed with her partner about the Island's former Rainbow Valley theme park.

But it's difficult for emerging artists to get into exhibitions, she said.

She also likes seeing her work in reference to the other three artists: Andrew Cairns, Monica Lacey and Alexandra O'Sullivan.

"The show's been doing a great job at giving us publicity, getting our names out there," she said.