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Behind the scenes with our 12 Trees artists

12 Trees: Let There Be Light
4 years ago

12 Trees the Gardiner’s annual holiday exhibition, is fast approaching! This year, we asked artists to put a contemporary twist on the traditional Christmas tree with a focus on light, a potent symbol of hope shared by many culture and faiths during the holiday season. Presented by Nordstrom and curated by author and artist Douglas Coupland and Vice President of Public Art Management Ben Mills, 12 Trees: Let There Be Light  brings a dynamic, contemporary, and light-filled perspective to the 12 Trees tradition.

Here’s a behind-the-scenes peek at the installations in progress and inside the minds of the artists.

Bright Hills
By Alex McLeod

“Light is such a powerful thing—as we move into the coldest season, we find it’s also our darkest. Decorating homes and other spaces with electric lights, for me at least, offsets the effects caused by the reduced sunlight. Even as an adult, string lights still feel magical.”

Light Emitted by a Distant Star will Make Its Way to You
By Jon Sasaki 

“During this project I learned that tree technology has improved by leaps and bounds since the last time I shopped for one. Built-in LED lights make things so easy, and I had no idea that there were remote-control-operated motorized telescopic trees on the market. I’ve been having fun putting these new innovations to use. Like a painter discovering six new colours they’d never heard of before.”

Family Tree
By Connor Crawford

“Lots of what I do involves learning new techniques on a project by project basis. I also have experience making faux materials in a television and movie prop context. This project has been a healthy mix of new territory while still staying within my lane.”


“The reflections of light on tree ornaments inspired our installation. During the holidays, light is all around the city—on trees and on buildings—and it adds to the brightness and cheeriness of the season.”

The Fresh Pines at Clean Lake
By David Trautrimas

“The fabrication of my installation relies on a unique mix of old and new technologies. The artwork was designed using 3D digital modelling software and all the trees were laser cut, but to finish the artwork, all the components—including the laser cut trees—are painted and sanded by hand.”

Disco Tree
By Julia Callon

I think light is such an important part of holidays and celebrations across different faiths and backgrounds—its such a positive universal symbol. For me, along with other meanings, it is also a big part of a good party!

Cyanotype Impressions
By Christine Dewancker and Katherine Strang

“Our 12 trees piece is following a similar conceptual thread as the piece we exhibited last year in that we consider the optimal environmental conditions that influence the health trees. Last year we depicted species of trees in Canada that require forest fires to regenerate and prosper. This year, looking within the city, we wanted to show how a diverse tree population can combat invasive diseases and create a more resilient ecology within a given ecosystem.”

The Metaverse Christmas Tree
By Evan Biddell 

“This process is extremely different than my typical artistic practice. As a fashion designer I am very hands on, building each garment myself from the cut to the construction. Deciding to create an installation in the virtual world has been completely fascinating.”

By Jordan Söderberg Mills

“Light is the fastest thing in the universe, the standard by which we measure it. It is the first thing mentioned in holy books, and for the sighted it builds our subjective reality. Artists have been trying to capture light in their own manner for generations, through chiaroscuro, photography, or stained glass, and this is my way.”

The Light in the Shadows
By Amit Kehar and Kanika Gupta

“Our installation is a trompe d’oeil. It is designed to play on our intuitive senses to look at the obvious. This installation challenges viewers to look beyond the obvious and see beauty in darkness.”

Forest of Light
By Julia White

“One of my favourite things to do is to go and sit in the forest beside the creek and listen.  It is a place of deep calm for me, so Forest of Light references the symbolism of the enchanted forest as a liminal space, a place of transformation, creative insight and refuge.”

Wishing Tree
By Vivian Wong

“I’m an observer of natural light, its colours, and shapes, as well as the interplay between objects within landscape and interior spaces and in the sky. After the winter solstice, the return of light is the most dramatic. It’s not just how the light changes, it’s how it changes you.”

12 Trees: Let There Be Light opens on Friday, November 17. Learn more and plan your visit to see all twelve finished installations.

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