Common Place

Some of the features on this page require that JavaScript be enabled.
view previous artwork view next artwork
Root Cellar
root cellar, gardening, metaphor, nostalgic view of the past, Saskatchewan harvest, food preservation, realism, ceramic sculpture, earth, gardener, life size clay vegetables, garden as metaphor, cycles, seasons, humour, artist trademarks, garden theme in art, preserves,life, death, metaphors, root cellar, gardens, food storage, preserves, gardener, earth, sculpture, clay sculpture, ceramics, artist trademark

Canned pickles

Victor Cicansky's Root Cellar was inspired by the activities of gardening and the storing of food for the winter. Cicansky presents a  nostalgicTo feel a bittersweet longing for things, persons, or situations of the past. The condition of being homesick; homesickness. Those who are nostalgic are likely to favour traditions over the future's potential to be the site of better things. Everyone would like to escape the present for some qualities remembered from (or associated with) times past. Nostalgia is that yearning for whatever it is that makes the present less desirable. Modernists were the most thoroughly anti-nostalgic group of people, whereas postmodernists pursue newness without being embarrassed by their embrace of references to the past. (  view of past times when houses sat on dirt basements and food and preserves were stored in the cellar for the winter. In this sculpture, we see a variety of foodstuffs arranged around the gardener and prepared to be placed in the cellar. The elderly man or gardener could be anyone's grandfather and he appears to be popping up from the earth as many animals that burrow into the earth do. The life-size  clayMud; moist, sticky dirt. In ceramics, clay is the basic material, usually referring to any of a certain variety of mixtures of such ingredients — fine-grained, firm earthy material that is plastic when wet, brittle when dry, and very hard when heated. There is a temperature with ceramic clays at which their particles fuse (vitrification), and this is most commonly controlled by heating (firing) them in a kiln. The most common types of ceramic clays are earthenware (terra cotta when fired, terra cruda when not), stonewares, and porcelain. (  vegetables and the preserves surrounding the gardener are a Cicansky trademark and similar pieces are often used in other works to speak to different themes.

start quoteAnd what I've discovered over the years is that planting a garden is like making art. It's the same kind of activity, it's full of possibilities, and it continues to give me ideas that produce the works that you see...end quote -- Victor Cicansky

In Root Cellar, Cicansky could be metaphorically suggesting serious concepts related to life, death and rejuvenation. The cool cellar will extend the use of the vegetables and preserves, but they and the gardener are close to the end of their cycles.  They are approaching a time when they will return to the earth. Cicansky is an avid gardener and he is in tune with the earth, nature and the cycles of the seasons. He often conceals serious concepts within a light or humourous sculptural form.

additional resources Interview with Timothy Long - Funk Art and the Regina Clay Movement
Duration: 3:35 min
Size: 15193kb
On the Connection Between Art and Gardens
Duration: 1:46 min
Size: 3364kb
On the Root Cellar
Duration: 2:47 min
Size: 4830kb
On the Technical Side of Art
Duration: 2:14 min
Size: 3682kb
On Why He Uses Vegetables in His Art
Duration: 2:36 min
Size: 6996kb
On Why He Works with Clay
Duration: 2:50 min
Size: 4816kb
Things to Think About
  • How is planting a garden like making art? Cicansky uses an unusual sculptural format for Root Cellar. Look at other sculptural works where artists have presented unusual formats. Why do you think artists use innovative approaches, such as this, in their work? What images come to mind when you look at Root Cellar and how would you describe the root cellar below the floor?
  • How are many foods stored today? How has food preservation changed over the years and why?
  • How does the price charged for food compare with the cost of its production? Could it be as economical to buy your food and vegetables as it is to grow your own? Why do you think someone would want to grow their own food?
Studio Activity
Hello, you either have JavaScript turned off or an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.

Grow a garden

Victor Cicansky is known for creating artworks inspired by gardens and vegetables.

  • Grow vegetables or a garden and observe the cycle of life.


Learn about composting and encourage, through  imageryAn image is a picture, idea, or impression of a person, thing, or idea; or a mental picture of a person, thing, or idea. The word imagery refers to a group or body of related images. (  in your own artwork, the importance of recycling and composting food waste products.


The idea of growing your own food and storing it for later use is an idea that is not embraced by many in our fast-paced, urban-centered society.

  • Are there other traditions that your great-grandparents enjoyed that were not continued in the next generations?
  • Which traditions have been carried over to your generation? 
  • designing and painting Easter eggs


Think of fond memories from your childhood.  Incorporate into your artwork some everyday objects related to these memories.

Drawing a mysterious place

Make an imaginary  drawingDepiction of shapes and forms on a surface chiefly by means of lines. Colour and shading may be included. A major fine art technique in itself, drawing is the basis of all pictorial representation, and an early step in most art activities. Though an integral part of most painting, drawing is generally differentiated from painting by the dominance of line over mass. There are many sorts of drawing techniques, varying according to the effect the artist wants, and depending on whether the drawing is an end in itself — an independent and finished work of art -- or a preliminary to some other medium or form — although distinct from the final product, such drawings also have intrinsic artistic value. Preliminary drawings include various exercises (e.g., contour drawing, gesture drawing, figure drawing, drawing from the flat), as well as sketches and studies, cartoons and underdrawings. (  of a dark and mysterious place.


Cicansky, Victor.  1972. Review of "Contemporary Ceramics II" exhibition in Tokyo, Japan for ArtsCanada Magazine, Issue No. 166/167/168.

Kerr, Don.  The Garden of Art:  Vic Cicansky, Sculptor.  Calgary, Alberta:  University of Calgary Press, 2004.

Illyas Pagonis.  1974.  Fired Sculpture. Exhibition catalogue. Art Gallery of Greater Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia.

Phillips, Carol A. 1980. 'Victor Cicansky.' in The Continental Clay Connection, Maija Bismanis. Norman Mackenzie Art Gallery, Regina, Saskatchewan.

Canadian Heritage University of Regina Mackenzie Art Gallery Mendel Art Gallery Sask Learning