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Trash turned into sculpture

Ron Simmer won't have the usual reception when his first solo art show opens on Thursday at Coquitlam's Place des Arts.

Ron Simmer won't have the usual reception when his first solo art show opens on Thursday at Coquitlam's Place des Arts.

Instead of a typical meet-and-greet, Simmer will show video footage of a sculpture he built - and burnt down - while at the Burning Man festival this summer in the Nevada desert.

Called Breaking Wave, the project started in the spring with three other artists to create a two-tonne effigy out of drift lumber.

Its aim was to draw attention to the ocean's pollution as well as to pay tribute to the devastating tsunami in Japan last year.

The environment's fragility is often the focal point for Simmer, who produces art out of found or recycled materials.

For his latest Coquitlam display, titled An Exultation of MOOP (Matter Out Of Place), the former commercial fisherman has assembled 19 objects out of trash as an homage to the Burning Man community, of which he's been a member for nine years.

His junk metal is picked up at scrapyards and back alleys. Discarded fire extinguishers are passed on by Royal City Fire Supplies while old skis, snowboards and tanks are donated by the public.

His materials are usually powder coated at a Coquitlam business before being turned into abstract animals and flowers, for example.

His most unusual piece to date has been a large rocking dog sculpture, made of old brass water tanks that he salvaged from ABC Traders in Richmond and polished at a Coquitlam outlet; it is currently installed at Granville Island in Vancouver.

Simmer admits the size and complexity of his sculptures can sometimes pose a problem for art galleries. For his Place des Arts' show, which runs until Nov. 10 in the Atrium Gallery, Simmer will have an 800 pound work called Nose.

"Some of the pieces are 100% from recycled materials and some such as the Infinite Mirrors have state-of-the-art electronic controllers and chasing LED lights with a portion of recycled material," said Simmer, a UBC librarian emeritus, in an email last week from Europe. "An example is the Cyborg Eye, made from a Union 76 gas station sign I found in a scrapyard."

Meanwhile, to continue with the nature theme, Wendy Schmidt will show her Westcoast Wildlife collection in the Mezzanine Gallery. The opening reception for both exhibits is Oct. 18 at 7 p.m. at Place des Arts (1120 Brunette Ave., Coquitlam). For more information, visit

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