Penticton Ancestors: Okanagan Lake Sculptures

Michael Dennis sculpture Penticton Ancestors (2009, cedar)

Penticton ancestors is a wonderful sculpture of three large figures on the shore of Okanagan Lake in the small city of Penticton, British Columbia. It was created by sculptor Michael Dennis and was installed in 2009. The figures represent the spirits of the past, and they do indeed make me think of benevolent ancient spirits that are there to guide and protect.

Penticton Ancestors: A sculpture by Michael Dennis (2009, cedar).

Lakeside Sculpture: Penticton Ancestors

The sculpture  is a good example of public art that perfectly matches the surroundings. The figures are large enough that they aren’t dwarfed by the lake and hills in the background and the material—wood—is a good match for the natural scenery. Because they are carved from cedar, the figures will eventually change from brown to grey as time passes.

Michael Dennis’s lakeside sculpture Penticton Ancestors

The artist, Michael Dennis, lives on Denman Island BC. His sculptures of human figures—like the ones shown here—are smooth, flowing and minimalist. He originally worked in academia in the field of physiology before devoting himself to sculpting, so it is interesting that someone so familiar with the intricate details of the human form would adopt such a minimalist approach to sculpting that form. His brief artist’s statement sums up his approach well

I try to capture the essence of human gesture
from a tree
using only the minimum definition required
That in one piece the viewer may see
both human form
and form of tree
We do not need details of feature to respond
Consider the essence of the female form
the mother we know
the lover we seek
How few lines it takes to see her
Detail view of Penticton Ancestors

The colors and light in the photographs are a little unusual. That is because there was a lot going on in the sky when I was taking the photos—a sunset, a slight haze from a distant forest fire and the sudden appearance of storm clouds over the city. The sky over the lake looked like this:

Penticton: Okanagan Lake at Sunset

For more photos of Penticton and Okanagan Lake (as well as Kelowna and the KVR trail) , you can visit my Flickr galleries. This is a good page to start from:

Go Further

This section includes discussion questions, an art challenge and links to online photo galleries.

Online Galleries

Higher resolution images (e.g. 2048 x 1365) can be viewed online at:

Artist Website

Micheal Dennis:

Three Questions

  1. How well do you think the sculpture evokes the idea of ‘spirits of the past’?
  2. In his artist’s statement, Michael Dennis states that he hopes the viewer will see ‘both human form and form of tree’? Do you see both forms in Penticton Ancestors?
  3. What the are the benefits of having art in public places?

Art Challenge

Sketch a sculpture representing ‘spirits of the past’. In your sketch, include the surroundings where you would would want the sculpture to be placed.

~ text and photos by longzijun


Return to Artjouer’s Gallery of Artists

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s