Skins of a red pine forest

Artist: Sheryl Boyle


This tile questions material manufacturing processes and the line that divides the useful and useless. In the mid-1960s, an Ottawa Valley family planted a forest of red pine, hoping their grandchildren could use the wood to build homes on the adjacent land. Sixty years later, the pines were felled and milled on-site into square timbers, providing materials for several Ottawa Valley buildings. The tile is a piece of that red pine deemed as waste during the process of squaring timbers, which is inherently wasteful due to the natural roundness of trees and the squareness of lumber. Wood waste is often used as firewood. However, the sap-infused skins of the red pine make a glamorous rebellion in a fire as it sparks and pops like natural fireworks, limiting its use as firewood. While we can dream of having no waste, to accomplish this goal, we must first understand the relationship between the idea of waste and use. This tile was intentionally cut from a piece of waste to show the bark, grain, and the saw marks that divided it from the “useful.” These questions of embedded exclusion in materiality and material life cycle are prominent to Associate Professor Sheryl Boyle’s interests and research at the Azrieli School of Architecture & Urbanism.