Bruce Anderson, "Making Sparks", 1990, ceramic. Collection of the MacKenzie Art Gallery, gift of the artist.

About the Artwork

The work presented here, Making Sparks, is one of a series of ceramic works that Anderson created around the theme of industrialization, environment, and contemporary society. 

The vertical, loosely humanoid figures in the series appear to have been made of found objects – boxes, containers, parts of machines or tools and the like. In fact, Anderson observed how his children used leftover packaging in their play, and became interested in how he might re-create castoff bits and pieces in ceramic form. In Making Sparks he has re-created the packaging, using ceramics, right down to the hazardous materials warnings at the base of the figure.  

The figure’s torso in Making Sparks is modeled after a tin of paint and varnish remover, while the twig-like “arms” are about to make sparks by bringing two hammers together. If a spark were to result, the likely outcome would be an explosion. Anderson seems to be suggesting that we human beings often knowingly set ourselves up for injury or death, by our own hands, like the found object figure in Making Sparks. 

From the ‘macrocosm to the microcosm’, Cole is intent on critically observing her world. “I am interested in developing a personal sense of connection both by networking on a social/political level and by trying to find the interrelatedness between myself and the Earth and Her cycles” she once wrote. “I want, by looking inward and at my immediate world, to understand/feel my position in the cosmos. One of the ways I try to make/articulate these ideas is through my work.” (Cole, 1990) 

About the Artist

Bruce Anderson was born in Beaverlodge, Alberta in 1951, and has spent most of his life in Saskatchewan. He attended school in Swift Current, where the big sky and the sweeping horizon line of southwestern Saskatchewan influenced his view of the world, and still does. 

Anderson received his Bachelor of Arts in History from the University of Saskatchewan in 1974, followed by a Master of Fine Arts from the University of Regina in 1984. 

Anderson draws on both his domestic environment and the larger social environment for his two and three-dimensional artworksHe expresses his concern about the abuses caused by over-development and the aesthetic, psychological and social issues associated with increasing urbanization. 

Anderson’s paintings demonstrate that he has observed the western landscape closely, along with the human and animal subjects that populate it. At first glance the paintings present a typical “Old West” scene, with cowboys on horseback situated in the landscape. On closer examination we are pulled up short when we see the discarded candy bar wrappers, chip bags, and other debris of our throwaway society in the foreground. Anderson juxtaposes the image of an older Western viewpoint with the reality of modern life. Past meets present, and home on the range is no longer so romantic and homey. 

Things to Think About

In Anderson’s previous works he uses the theme of the “Old West”, however in this piece he is focused more on contemporary industrial society. 

  • Imagine someone from the year 1865 time travelled to present day. What are some similarities and differences between 1865 and present day? How do you think a person from the past would react to events going on in our current society? 
  • Is there anything a person from the past might find dangerous in the present day that we currently do not? Is there something we would find dangerous in the 1800that themight not agree with
  • If possible, find old pictures of the community or city you currently live in. Compare those to what it looks like now. What has changed? What has improved? What has not improved?  
  • What is an action you can do in your own home or community to make it safer or better?  

Post your artwork online using the hashtag #studiosundaysyqr!

Studio Activity


Bruce Anderson’s artwork uses the playful figure of a robot to explore ideas of safety and industry. Create a robot whose sole purpose it is to make your home/community safer. 

What you Need:

  • Tape, glue or anything to hold pieces together 
  • Household recycled materials
  • Paper

What you Do:

  • Discuss with your family/friends what you robot’s safety purpose could be. 
  • Sketch out what you want your robot to look like. 
  • Find recycled materials around your home and create your robot.