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Touch Traces: New iteration of public art on Calgary’s RiverWalk

Calgary artist Cassie Suche said she heard a fair number of finger injury stories as she collected fingerprints this past spring.

The fingerprints are part of a new iteration of public art done by Suche in spaces along the Jack and Jean Leslie RiverWalk. The collection, called Touch Traces, appear on the bridge abutments and building surfaces along the pathway system winding along the south side of the Bow River.

It’s part of the Calgary Municipal Land Corporation’s Art in the Public Realm program. Since 2010, four artist teams have had installations in those spaces. They circulate the work of new artists on those spaces every couple of years.

Suche’s art replaces that of Katie Green, whose work Bridge had been in the area for the past three years.

Suche said this work, which features manipulated fingerprints of East Village residents and visitors, is a blend of physical tactility and digital process.

“What drew me to fingerprints, initially, is really their aesthetic,” Suche said.

“I am really drawn to order within nature and sort of organic patterns. And I’m just really intrigued by kind of the orderly complexity of fingerprints.”

The symbolic reference to touch and the way we interact with the world around us really sealed the idea for Suche.

The process behind the art

Touch Traces by Calgary Artist Cassie Suche along the East Village Riverwalk in Calgary on Wednesday, June 29, 2022. ARYN TOOMBS / FOR LIVEWIRE CALGARY

With the support of CMLC, Suche began collecting fingerprints from residents and visitors to the area. The initial goal was to get 300 for the project. Suche said by the end of April she had more than 640 prints.

During the collection, Suche said she’d heard a lot about people’s different finger injuries. Those were some of the stories that came out. Others were concerned about the privacy aspect.

“I wasn’t expecting it to be as challenging as it was,” Suche said.

“In fact, there was a couple of organizations that didn’t allow the project in their space because of that they felt that it was it was possibly not OK to ask people for that.”

Giving fingerprints was voluntary, Suche said.

Each print was reproduced, enlarged and then scanned for the project. As it was being scanned, the print was twisted, turned and otherwise distorted to create elongated or altered prints. Then as the art took shape, it was printed on vinyl and applied to the locations.

Suche said the result for many of the images was an appearance of it flowing, similar to the nearby river.

“I’m really enamored with the dreamy, flowy image that this process generates,” she said.

“It’s a soft collision of physical touch and digital process that highlights the beauty of these marks and their significance.”

The process was a juried selection. Seventeen proposals came in for review by a volunteer jury, according to the CMLC.

“CMLC’s Art in the Public Realm program seeks to build a legacy of public art through installations of local, national and international significance,” said Clare LePan, VP of Marketing and Communications at CMLC.