Heather Benning (Cow)Above is a shot of a recently installed art work by Heather Benning in Hill Tower II that is part of a summer-long public art display called Pop Up Downtown that is running in underused downtown spaces. If you click the above link, you’ll see that 10 artists are involved, and work has been installed at nine different locations.

I posted on Heather Benning on June 1 in relation to a show she has opening at Slate Gallery Thursday June 11. In Our June 11 issue, in fact, I’ll have an interview with Benning about her show.

As far as her contribution to Pop Up Downtown goes, the theme the artists are working with is Absence/Presence. Born and raised on a Saskatchewan farm, Benning has long been interested in examining the changing nature of rural life. The ghost-like quality of the cow could be seen as a lament for the declining vibrancy of rural communities as family farms are swallowed up by larger-scale agribusinesses.

The cow’s emaciated state, meanwhile, especially in comparison with the bronze Joe Fafard cow located across the pedestrian mall in Hill Tower I, suggests a certain impoverishment that comes with the loss of family and communal bonds when economic pressures force people from their homes and livelihoods.

As well, the cow sits on piece of artificial turf which could be seen as a comment on large-scale farming practices which don’t always provide the best outcomes for the environment, the animals that farmers raise and the crops they produce, and ultimately, the food we eat.

Tonight there’s a reception for the artists involved in Pop Up Downtown at the Capitol Jazz Club at 1843 Hamilton. It’s at 5 p.m., and there will be a walking tour of the nine installations at 6 p.m. The art will be up in the downtown until late August.