Fired Up About A Snake Effigy

Inspiration comes in all shapes and sizes and Alanna Warner, a Whitehorse artist, recently found hers in a toy snake.

After discovering the toy, which was made from a wooden dowel and designed to replicate the movements of snake, it became the perfect symbol for Burning Away the Winter Blues event, which takes place on March 24 in Whitehorse.

“It’s not like I really like snakes but I thought it would make an interesting movement and it’s also the year of the snake,” she says. “And it’s all about transformation so I thought that it was fitting for the end of the season.”

Warner has spent the last few weeks crafting the effigy, tediously preparing a sculpture that will soon be burnt away. It’s not her first experience with temporary art; she also created the snow sculpture at the entrance of Shipyards Park during Rendezvous this year.

That piece, after slowly melting during the event, was eventually flattened back into the ground by a bulldozer.

“I really enjoy ephemeral art,” she said, while working on the project earlier this week.

“There’s a place for monuments, and a place for objects that are meaningful in the present moment and speak to the state of impermanence.”

Warner, who was born in the Yukon, recently completed a fine arts degree from Concordia University in Montreal and returned to the territory this past summer. She’s also a graduate of the carving program at the Northern Cultural Expression Society.

She says having the opportunity to use her skills to create something for the community makes the process more rewarding.

“I really enjoy making large scale things and it’s a fun community event,” she says. “I like the ritual of it.”

But there have been issues.

The first challenge came in designing something that was sturdy enough to be transported but light enough to carry, not to mention flammable. The end result is a mix of cardboard, paper, wire, paint, lights and hot glue. Once completed, it will be more than 20 feet (6 metres) in length and it will require six people to carry.

After beginning the project in her apartment, she quickly ran out of space but was able to relocate to a friend’s basement.

“My dog was jumping all over it and there was stuff everywhere, so it’s been great to have this space to work on it,” she says.

The effigy has also been created from recyclable materials, another process Warner enjoys.

“When you’re a student you can’t afford the materials you would like to use so you learn to use what’s available to you,” she says. “I enjoying designing the shapes and making mistakes, seeing what works and what doesn’t. With this piece, it’s definitely been a labour of love. I’m looking forward to getting out there with everyone and being part of the event.”

Burning Away the Winter Blues, a community event hosted by Yukon Educational Theatre, takes place on March 24, starting with a parade departing from the SS Klondike at 9 p.m. The effigy will then be marched to the Robert Service Campground, where a bonfire and entertainment will be provided until 11:30 p.m. Attendance is free and participants are encouraged to bring (non-toxic) symbolic items to burn at the campfire. Brass Knuckle Society will be providing music and Joe La Jolie will be performing with fire poi, fire fans and more.

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