Wood showing signs of mold spots under varnish

Artist: Sheryl Boyle


The wood in this tile was found along the Ottawa River shoreline following the “100-year flood” of the Ottawa River in 2017. After being in floodwaters, this pine plank developed a beautiful mold growth pattern on both sides under the thin layer of varnish. The varnish sealed the moisture of the waterlogged wood, creating a “greenhouse” when exposed to the sun and creating prime conditions for mold growth. This tile intends to highlight the resilience of architectural materials, the processes of decay, and how biological processes could contribute to making. For example, could bacteria participate in surface patterns and protection systems for materials? This tile was placed within the quilt wall to draw attention to the thin space between varnish and wood where bacteria has started to grow. The beautiful pattern of the mold on both sides is skin deep, in contrast to the clear wood grain on the end of the piece. The wood shows iron stains of the nail at its exposed edge, hinting at a former use.