Sculptureexplores U.S./Canadian border relations

Published on Thu, May 10, 2007 by Tara Nelson

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Sculpture explores U.S./Canadian border relations

By Tara Nelson

What would the U.S./Canadian border look like under different circumstances?

Boston, Massachusetts artist John Hooker explores that concept in a scaled-down version of what could have been minus the two countries’ friendly relations.

The piece, titled “Border Proposal,” uses concrete, steel and plastic to create a meandering 20-foot miniature border wall, and was installed at the Peace Arch State Park last week as part of the 10th annual United States/Canada Peace Anniversary Association’s (USCPAA) international sculpture exhibit on display now until October 1.

“Canada and the U.S. share friendly relations and have done so for most of each other’s existence,” Hooker said. “What if we had not? So as to not take the relationship for granted, we should consider how different the relationship could be through a humorously-scaled model, compete with structure and plastic guards at attention.”

Hooker lives and works in Boston, where he is an assistant professor of art at Bridgewater State College.

He earned his undergraduate degree in art education at Missouri State University and his graduate degree in sculpture from the University of Notre Dame.

Travel is a major inspiration for Hooker’s work and he has toured extensively in China, Mongolia, Russia, Tanzania, Costa Rica, New Zealand and Puerto Rico, often using his experiences to put parallels he finds between cultures into sculptural form.

Hooker said his inspiration for Border Proposals comes from his travels to borders in other countries such as China, and current discussions by U.S. officials about building a wall along the United State’s southern border – something that Hooker dubbed “too expensive and exclusive.”

“I don’t have all the answers, but I’ve done some traveling and I’ve seen the Great Wall of China and the Berlin Wall, and when we look at walls, we think of them in a pretty negative sense as to what their purpose is,” he said. “Walls are something more of the past and putting up physical walls doesn’t seem to be the answer to the future. I wanted the piece to display what the reality could look like if we extrapolated the problem out and continued on this path to being exclusionary.”

Hooker said he chose the Peace Arch sculpture exhibition because the piece was a site-specific sculpture that could work only in a particular area. Peace Arch state park was perfect because of its proximity to a border, its history of controversy and the Peace Arch itself, inscribed with the words “May These Gates Never Be Closed.”

The sculpture’s size – 20 feet long by 15 inches tall – was intentional to create a “humorously small-scale.” The plastic soldiers patrolling the top of the wall were hand-carved out of Sculpey, a flexible polymer clay that hardens when it is heated.

“When you’re much larger than the object, you have some psychological control over it so I wanted the viewer to think maybe if it’s on an unconscious level, they are feeling that they are the person who makes the choice for peace,” he said. “But most of all, I want this to be funny and for people to see the absurdity of it and to know that we could take other paths.”

The exhibition includes 12 pieces and draws an annual attendance of about 500,000 people from around the world, according to the USCPAA’s web site. For more information, visit

More of John Hooker’s art can be viewed at