Council of Elders - CODAworx

Council of Elders

Submitted by Duthie Gallery

Client: Van Dusen Botanical Garden/Duthie Gallery

Location: Vancouver, BC, Canada

Completion date: 2014

Artwork budget: $99,000

Project Team

Art Consultant

Celia Duthie

Duthie Gallery


Michael Dennis


The Council Of Elders by Michael Dennis was commissioned to be the feature piece for a sculpture exhibit at the Van Dusen Botanical garden in Vancouver, BC, Canada (2013-14). The exhibition ‘Touch Wood,’ curated by the Duthie Gallery, presented 21 works by 10 different artists installed throughout the 55 acres of the garden. The Council of Elders consists of 11 figures between 10 – 12′ carved in red cedar, the footings are 40″ x 40″ and submerged under the turf.


The Council of Elders was essential to the vision of the exhibition; it set the scale of the human figure in the landscape. The rough hewn materiality of the work speaks also to the history of the park - the essential forestry economy of the province of BC. The artist, Michael Dennis, has for more than 30 years been carving monumental figures in salvaged cedar; abstract and semi-representational, his figures are archetypes and ancestors whose presence in the landscape is defining and whose effects are manifest.


Michael Dennis has lived on Denman Island for 30 years. Originally from California, a professor and neurophysiological research scientist at University of California, San Francisco, Michael made a dramatic shift in the 80’s, from the academy of science to the practice of art and the making of “representations of self” and ancestral tropes. His work is in prominent collections here and abroad; his carved figures are familiar in Vancouver with public installations at SFU, UBC and ‘Dude Chilling' park. The Duthie Gallery has collaborated on exhibitions with Michael Dennis for 7 years.

Additional Information

'Touch Wood' garnered a great deal of good press for the VanDusen Garden, Duthie Gallery and Michael Dennis and record numbers visited the VanDusen Botanical Garden to experience the exhibition. It remained on display for 2 years. Subsequent exhibitions include the Duthie Gallery Sculpture park and the Abkhazi Garden in Victoria BC with plans for a new venue are to be confirmed within the next month.