Artist David Jacob Harder installed Ponderosa Sphere at George Elliot Secondary April 7. - Credit: David Jacob Harder

What is that giant bark ball in Lake Country?

Creator David Jacob Harder explains his Ponderosa Sphere installation

It represents the cycle of life and death, but it’s also just a ball of bark sitting in the middle of a lawn, says the creator of the mysterious ball recently installed at George Elliot Secondary.

The Ponderosa Sphere installation was unveiled April 7 at the high school in Lake Country, where it will sit and slowly decay until September.

Growing up on a rural farm with his parents and three siblings outside of Quesnel, Salmon Arm artist David Jacob Harder uses the environment as his canvas.

He chose Ponderosa pine bark for the sphere because of what it represents to him; that everything is temporary.

“You embrace death because you see it, you see some of your pets become food. You see a lot of reality of life at a young age but you also see a beauty in that,” the 35-year-old said.

“(The Ponderosa pines are) something that are dying in the area and they’re very apparent. When you’re driving through the Thompson Nicola Okanagan you can start to see these magnificent trees fading away, especially when you get closer to the Kamloops area. In the more arid climates, you see the most magnificent trees and they’re just completely devoid of their sap because of the pine beetles,” he said.

“There’s life that is sustained because of that death and that’s the same with this Ponderosa Sphere.” The closer Harder drove to the Okanagan, the more life the trees had.

Collecting elements from the landscape, he sees the sphere as a timed based piece, set to eventually rot, as everything eventually does.

But you don’t have to read that much into it. Harder wants onlookers to create their own narrative when they see the piece and use their imagination.

It wasn’t by accident that he began creating art from the earth.

“I grew up homeschooled in the middle of the bush, and so I lived very remote with my family and that was second nature to be out in the woods and out doing things like that. I always made things out there. I was pretty natural progression working with organic tissues and fibers of the earth just because I always felt like that was what I was akin to,” he said.

“I always felt this solace with the connection there, it’s a little romantic and whimsical but my upbringing was also romantic and whimsical.”

His father Randy Harder was a logger until a tree fell and paralyzed him, something that Harder carries with him. He remembers growing up in a home his father built from logs and his attachment to trees at a young age.

“They just went out into the woods and built themselves a house, I celebrate that in so many ways, especially since my father almost gave his life doing that,” he said.

His older brother Aaron Harder encouraged him to draw and shares a similar passion, but uses concrete as his art form. He attended Thompson Rivers University where he received a degree in fine arts and history.

The pair recently collaborated on another installation of Harder’s titled From Within, which was unveiled in Kelowna April 12 at the Karis Support Society, a non-profit that offers housing for women struggling with mental health challenges and addiction.

“It was a pretty intense and touching moment,” he said, adding he got the chance to speak with the residents during the unveiling.

The sculpture features a bronze figure, covered in Ginkgo leaves, breaking out from the concert beneath its feet.

“There was always something that was in me to make things,” Harder said.

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