Burnaby sculptor thinks outside the box

One man's trash is another man’s treasure.

That’s often the case for Burnaby artist Ron Simmer, who’s known for his colourful garden structures made out of recycled materials. Whether it’s expired fire extinguishers or old shovels, the local sculptor said he finds most of his scraps at garage sales, auctions and even by the river’s shore.

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“Big art is really very expensive, you know,” he told the NOW. “If you use recycled materials, it’s all good. It helps the environment and things don’t go in the landfills.”

Simmer, who will have his work on display later this month at Vancouver’s VanDusen Botanical Garden, calls his style “pop art.” Upon first glance, the sculptures are colourful and larger than life (some are around seven feet high). The “Roadrunner,” for example, is made up of a bright red water tank, a rake and a sprocket, while “Board Rest” (a bench) was built using old snowboards and skis.

Putting the pieces together, meanwhile, takes at least a few days in what 74-year-old Simmer calls a “multi-step process.” After designing what it’ll look like, the local resident said he welds it all together and then takes it in to be coated for anti-corrosion.  

Simmer’s inspiration for working with recycled materials, he said, comes from his working background, having worn the hat of fisherman, construction worker, steel fabricator, boat builder and librarian. Mix that in with his love of the outdoors and hobbies like fly fishing and sailing.

“What we see in art museums is conceptual art, there’s a deep idea there,” he said. “I guess I’m not in the conceptual art field, so much as the pop art, making things look beautiful and interesting and funny and cause people to laugh. That’s a good thing, I think.”

Now in its eighth year, the summer show at VanDusen Garden runs from July 30 to Aug. 3. This will be Simmer’s second time appearing in the exhibit. The garden is located at 5251 Oak St.

To view a gallery of Simmer's work, visit www.artsblast.com or www.ssbc.ca.

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