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PHOTOS: 'Lost 5 – Signal' hits Penticton's Front Street roundabout

In the spring of 2020, sculptor Karl Matson rumbled into town with his truck and trailer rig. He'd driven in from his farm in the countryside of northeastern BC, a place so barren of humanity that folks from nearby Rolla (population 100) are considered city slickers.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> The orignal Lost, circa 2021

Okay, we embellish. But you get the idea.

Matson's cargo that day was the sculpture known as "Lost," a towering ten-foot-tall, 800-pound ode to a failing environment and his own "struggle with the existential" that he'd concocted over the course of months with salvaged materials from the oil and gas industry.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> The original Lost

Lost was unmistakably feminine. Yet it was equally haunting. And it was huge. And metal. There was little question it was one of the most striking pieces to ever grace Penticton's annual Public Sculpture Exhibition.

And its placement, in the middle of the well-traveled Front Street roundabout, assured it'd be seen by virtually everyone in town.

One of those people was ex-Liquidity Wines CEO Ian MacDonald. MacDonald would ultimately buy Lost and move it to his stunning property overlooking Okanagan Lake a year later when the City contract was up.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> The orignal Lost, moved to a cliff overlooking Okanagan Lake

Thursday morning, Mattson rolled into town once more with his truck and trailer, and just like 2020 headed straight for the Front Street roundabout.

The 2024 version of the Exhibition was ramping up and the City had again selected a Mattson work to grace the show's premier spot.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> The brand new 2024 version of Lost moves into position Thursday

Meeting Mattson at the roundabout were Public Works dudes Justin Zimmerman and Blake Pickering. They'd brought along their excavator, and soon the trio was hoisting Penticton's newest outdoor sculpture – all 1,000 pounds of it -- into its home for the next year.

Zimmerman especially is an old hand at this kind of stuff. He regularly runs the heavy equipment for sculpture installations. And he knows Mattson pretty well from prior visits.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Sculptor Karl Mattson during installation

By noon Thursday the gear and the crew and the artist had moved on, and all that was left was the sculpture. And what a sculpture.

It’s the latest in what has now become Mattson's signature series – a "Lost" series that has seen placements in both BC and Alberta. A series that, he maintains, represents "mankind's complacent march into a world of uncertainty."

"It’s called 'Lost 5 – Signal,'" said Mattson during install. "This whole thing started a few years ago after I built a bunch of above-ground bunkers…breathing chambers."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Justin Zimmerman directs the operation

Mattson would call the bunkers 'Life Pods'. They were, he maintained, a response to what he perceived as issues in certain aspects of the oil and gas industry. And though they were first and foremost art pieces, they were also capable of housing his own small family in the event of emergency.

"I've made my own casket too," laughed Mattson when we suggested he's a bit dark. "A breathing chamber casket."

For Lost 5, which he says is 14 feet tall if you include the artfully designed base and of course that raised arm, Mattson has gone deep with the communication aspect.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who> Mattson, Zimmerman, Pickering surround Lost 5

"She's either searching for some sort of signal or sending a signal," he said. "I'm not sure.

"The device she has is growing into her arm or is connected, like we all are. I'm thinking that'll happen more and more. It's going into the mainline of her arm."

In its narrative, Matson has also factored in the existence of the other three Losts across Western Canada.

"Each has a bit of a different story," he said. "The last Lost is in Castlegar now. They've leased it for another year. She's looking through an old-timey telescope.

"They could all be searching for each other. They all have a communication device. They all have breathing tanks."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

The Lost process, said Mattson, begins with a stick figure sketch.

"And I scratch around for useable scraps," he said. "I find it around farms. And people bring me stuff from the oil and gas industry. I get to shop. I have a small crane. I make a pile of it."

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

The patches that make up the figure's skin are "metal fabric" from a mill that are welded into position over an iron body that was "all bent with heat and hammers and by hand."

Mattson fits all this artsy stuff around his farming schedule. Together with his girlfriend Natalie Sharma, who joined him for the install Thursday, he lives on a sprawling 160-acre spread.

He likes the setup.

<who>Photo Credit: Karl Mattson</who> Lost 5 during last week's solar storm

"I sell hay, I take care of horses and I make art," he said casually.

"I live in the country so I can be quite wild with my art. One time I built a 30-foot cannon. There was a lot of flaring (the burning of natural gas associated with oil extraction) going on around us. So I built my own thing and filled it with gunpowder and blasted back."

One other thing. All the heads of all the Losts can double as stoves.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

"I built one for commission in Calgary that we plumbed into a gas line," he said. "He can light it with a button on her backpack. It was a memorial piece for a missing person."

For more info on the Penticton Public Sculpture Exhibition, which will welcome the rest of the 2024 lineup within the next few weeks, go here. For more info on Karl Mattson and/or to enquire about purchasing Lost 5 – Signal, go here.

<who>Photo Credit: NowMedia/Gord Goble</who>

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