The best kept secrets are right out in the open.  My only regret is not discovering this fabulous exhibit sooner while George was still alive.

Today marks the beginning of a new photoblog series, “Two Toads in Wonderland” that finds us on an adventure together exploring the vast George Sawchuk Outdoor Art Exhibit, also known to locals as the “Wacky Woods”.  Even though his incredible exhibit was just recently found by us, a search online has revealed a treasure-trove of information on this famous Canadian artist.  Our post will include a large series of links at the bottom for those who may be interested in discovering more about George than we cover in our series.

On February 2nd, 2012, George passed away in his sleep and has left this remarkable and enchanted place behind for us all to enjoy.  So, without further ado, let’s enjoy it together.

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

Mrs. Toad and I set out this day on a search.  We only knew of the name of the place and the town it lived in.  Armed with nothing further, we hopped into our beloved Corvette and set out for a day of adventure.  We had no idea what we were about to find and how it would change our lives forever.

Fanny Bay is a small Vancouver Island town that sits in a pack of little towns that dot the coast.  It’s one of those places with only a few houses and a corner store on the main street, and if you weren’t paying attention as you passed by the small sign you’d never really realize you had come into a small town.  You could literally drive right through and not really notice.  A quintessential island place, to say the very least.

I had hoped to find signs as we came into town that would lead us to the art exhibit.  No such luck.  But given George’s stature and fame in the community, it only took me stopping at the local gas station and inquiring to find the secret entrance to this wonderland.  And yes, before you ask…  I am a man, and I stopped to ask for directions.  Good thing, too.  There’s no way on this bright little green earth we would have found this without them.

We parked at a park entrance barricade that contained absolutely no signage regarding what was hidden deep in the woods.  A good hike into the park and finally we encountered something strange, something a little out-of-place.  A bench with a sign.  This surely had to be it!

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

As we entered the exhibit, at first the sights were slightly quizzical, slightly unusual.  The air was thick and still, very few sounds permeated the area.  In the distance we could hear sea lions barking in the nearby bay, well out of sight.  We could see artifacts on display between the brush, ferns and trees and knew we had encountered something so extraordinary and so unique, words would be difficult to find in trying to describe it.

Many of the pieces are political in nature, and no matter what your personal political beliefs may be, the pieces and messages contained on them resonate.

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

After George had a bad accident while logging, he set about to reinvent himself.  He quickly became a student of art, with a voracious appetite to learn.  In short order he was making his own pieces and they were recognized by a neighbor of his as having special merit.  His neighbor, an artist himself, helped to catapult George to the level he eventually rose to, culminating in countless awards and art gallery exhibits.  George became a famous Canadian artist.  And well-deserved, too.

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

As one gets deeper and deeper into the exhibit, the pieces become markedly more intricate, each delivering a special message that George was trying to share.  Mrs. Toad found this particular piece and beckoned me to shoot it.  She said it reminded her of a vestibule in the entrance-way to a house.  I totally agreed with her, particularly given that this was found early on in our trip near the entrance to the site.

As things began to unfold we realized we had encountered a huge display deep in the Canadian woods.  Time both stood still and whizzed by at break-neck speed.

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

George was a lot of things.  Subtle wasn’t one of them.  This piece really felt to us like he was trying to show how the trappings of the modern world are capturing and imprisoning nature.  Others may interpret this differently, but we have no doubt that everyone would call this profound.  We love this piece.

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

What this piece speaks to is a mystery to me.  According to the locals George and his wife Pat were well-known to welcome everyone in, and given his outwardly friendly nature hours could pass by in wonderful conversation.  We have no doubt that we would have found them to be the most delightful folks ever, and would have reveled in spending time discussing nature, politics and the state of the modern world.

And what a state it’s in, too.

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

The Wacky Woods - Fanny Bay, BC, Canada || George Sawchuk: Outdoor Art Exhibit

George was a kind and humble man, and this particular piece really speaks of his personal view on life and how we integrate with nature and the universe we find ourselves in.  The entire facility is peppered with signs and message like this, and our future posts on this series will reveal more.  And we’ll also reveal many more of his pieces…  many are complex and fascinating in themselves.

The Wacky Woods is a place you can lose time in.  Mrs. Toad and I were easily here for several hours and came away with a huge assortment of images that we’ll be sharing over the coming weeks.  As we explored deeper and deeper into the exhibit and more of George and his works were revealed to us we quickly came to realize the enormity of what we had discovered.  The enormity of what George was trying to say to the world as a whole.

The word profound doesn’t even begin to describe it.

So as we begin our latest photoblog journey together let’s pause for a moment to reflect on George and his works.  We feel a deep sense of loss and sorrow in George’s passing, wishing beyond wishes that we could have had a chance to meet him in person.  Given that this is now not possible we feel humbled and honored in sharing this series, and along with it George’s story, with you here.

Thanks so very much for taking the time to visit us today.  It really means so much to us here.  Please do feel free to leave any comments you may have as we love to hear from all our visitors.


‘You can’t get more Canadian than George’ (Sawchuk)

George Sawchuk

George Sawchuk’s Enchanted Forest

George Sawchuk sculpture forest (on Flickr)

Wacky Woods/Enchanted Forest of George Sawchuk (1927 – 2012) (YouTube Video)

George Sawchuk and Art that Matters

Obituary – George Sawchuk (The Vancouver Sun) – GEORGE SAWCHUK

  1. avatar Heather says:

    I am EXCITED about this series!!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks so very much Heather! Can’t wait to share more of this wonderful story with you!!

  2. avatar Erin Duke says:

    This looks to be yet another fascinating series, Toad! I love the intro and I’m looking forward to the following posts! 🙂

  3. Wonderful find Toad. As always a great write up, I can almost smell the forest and hear the sounds around me.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Most excellent, my good friend! Thanks from the bottom of our hearts for your kind visit today!

  4. Fascinating, you’ve got me looking out for the rest of this story.

  5. avatar ehpem says:

    Very interesting blog. Great to have all those sources too. He sounds like a very interesting person. I like your photos and processing too – really nicely done!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      That really means an awful lot to us, my friend, thanks so much! We’re really looking forward to sharing more of this incredible story!

  6. avatar Jim Denham says:

    That is a bit wacky for sure!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      It sure is, isn’t it! Thanks for your kind visit and comments here, Jim, it really means an awful lot to us!

  7. avatar Len Saltiel says:

    What an unusual find Toad. Certainly a bit wacky place. Excellent write-up (as always) and images, my friend.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thank you so, so much Len, that is just so very kind of you! We really appreciate all your friendship and support here, my friend, an awful lot.

  8. avatar HDRChic says:

    What a wonderful blog you have, such interesting, well-written reads and the photography, oh my, the photography, its realism, life just comes alive. You truly are a writer, I think I see a photography storybook in your future. Thanks for your visits to HDRChic and my blogs/Twitter too. It’s a joy!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Wow, thank you so much for your kind, kind words here today, we really appreciate it! Funny you should mention the book idea, that’s one of the things we’re hoping to tackle later this year, time permitting. Thank you so much for your visit, it really means an awful lot to us!

  9. avatar Edith Levy says:

    Very cool Toad. Looking forward to the rest of the series. Love the second to last image, so unique.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      That’s so awfully kind of you, Edith, thanks so much for your kind visit today!

  10. avatar Jim Nix says:

    wow Toad this is interesting, thanks for sharing!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks Jim, as always we truly appreciate you taking the time to visit and for leaving us your comments my friend! Much appreciated.

  11. avatar A.Barlow says:

    Those are some really cool images man. Love how many ferns there are. That wood with the things in it way cool.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      That’s really a special piece, isn’t it my friend. Thank you so very much for your visit and comments Aaron, your friendship and support means so very much to us here.

  12. avatar Adam Allegro says:

    This looks like such an awesome, trippy place. There is an interesting place up here in Italy called Bomarzo, which I plan on visiting some day soon. Check that out!

    Looking forward to seeing more from this place!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      OK that just looks way cool, Adam! A photographers paradise, that’s for sure! Thanks for your visit today and for leaving us your great comments, Adam, we sure do appreciate it my friend!

  13. Seems like a really interesting place to visit and shoot. Great job as usual weaving words and images together.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks ever so kindly Steven, we really appreciate all your encouragement and support here, so much!

  14. avatar LensScaper says:

    What a fascinating place where you never quite know what’s hiding round the next corner. This looks to be the start of another interesting series of fascinating artifacts. Great finds, Toad.

  15. avatar Sartenada says:

    It must have been awesome place. The word “Wacky” captured my attention, because I have made two posts using that word.

    Check it Yourself if these are

    Wacky statues

    or not. The owner of this place is also dead.

    Happy blogging!

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Oh geez! How fabulous is that! I think it’s so, so important that we document these things for future generations. Particularly the outdoor exhibits, as weathering and time begin to take their toll and Mother Nature begins to reclaim what is truly hers.

      Thank you so very much for taking the time to visit, and for leaving us your story to enjoy! We really appreciate your support here, thank you so much!!

  16. avatar Kosha lipke says:

    We were honoured to meet George and Pat on two occasions, he was such a humble
    self educated man, it was a joy to talk with him and learn his thoughts and history.
    His studios are full of creations and he was more than willing to tell us about all of the pieces and what they represented.

    Such a loss. I still talked to friends about going to the Wacky Woods again this summer and meeting him.
    Sadly that will not happen now.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      What wonderful comments to share. We’re sorry you won’t be able to see him again. When we heard of this place and George, we were pretty excited to come up and meet him. We were so very disappointed to find the news, and to see that this had just happened recently. I think it’s up to all of us, as a community, to find a way to preserve his legacy. It’s such an amazing and enchanted place, and we really get a chance to learn quite a bit about George through his work. Thank you so very much for visiting, and for leaving us your comments. We sincerely appreciate it.

  17. avatar Jim Manahan says:

    Very interesting website and having just found it, I will bookmark for future visits. I enjoy your work.

    • avatar ToadHollowPhoto says:

      Thanks Jim! That really means a lot to us here! We sure do look forward to seeing you around here at The Hollow again soon!!