Life in the Sacrifice Zone: A Farmer and Artist from Fracking Country Brings His Sculptures South

xʷməθkʷəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish) & səl̓ilwətaʔɬ (Tsleil-Waututh) Territories / VANCOUVER, July 2, 2024 –

“So the battle between his David and the Goliath gas and oil industry continues. In the conflict, Mattson’s slingshot is his art.” – Border Crossings Magazine

This July, amid multi-year drought linked to climate change affecting farmers across the province, fifth-generation farmer and artist Karl Mattson will be taking his struggle against the fracking and liquefied natural gas (LNG) fossil fuel industries in northeast British Columbia to the south.

Mattson’s large-scale, functional Life Pod sculptures are the focal point of the art exhibition named “Life in the Sacrifice Zone” in Vancouver at the UBC Medical Student & Alumni Centre from July 7-20, sponsored by the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE). Fashioned of salvaged materials from oil and gas industry scrapyards and farmyards, he designed them to serve as self-contained bunkers in the event of a lethal sour gas leak or rupture of the pipelines that surround his family farm in Rolla, BC.

He hopes that introducing a wider audience to his art will spur more awareness and action in BC against fracking and LNG development, which is damaging the environment, human health and social cohesion within his community.

“Because we’re rural residents and not a concentrated group like in a city, industry just pushes by us. During the process of dealing with the negative effects of the oil and gas industry unfolding around my family farm, I decided to take action through art. Art is my way of being seen and heard,” says Mattson of his artistic work.

Mattson’s art has been exhibited across North America in cities including Vancouver, Winnipeg, Toronto and New York City. For over a decade his creative works in sculpture, film and mixed-media photography have centred around his concerns with the push of the oil and gas industry into northeastern BC.

The installation also features photographs of northern BC residents who inhabit what has been deemed the “Sacrifice Zone.” Subjects range from farmers, to a young suburban family in Dawson Creek, to Hereditary Wet’suwet’en Chiefs whose territories lie in the path of the 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline. Viewers will bear witness to each subject’s unique voice and experience with the LNG industry by reading printed excerpts from their interviews with the curator that accompany each image.

Finally, a continuous projected film loop of flaring and fracking activity recorded near Mattson’s farm, as well as original recorded music by Peace River Region farmers Tim and Linda Ewert, offer a direct view of the intrusion of the oil and gas industry into what was once a quiet, rural existence.

Dr. Melissa Lem, a Vancouver family physician and President of CAPE, is curating the exhibit. She hopes that engaging viewers through art and narrative will help them understand the negative effects of the oil and gas industry in BC on a deeper level.

“The stories I’ve heard from people who have been directly affected by the fracking and LNG industries are disturbing, heartbreaking and deserve to be told. In a time of climate crisis we must be focusing on a rapid, just transition towards renewable energy. We cannot risk further investment in an industry that pollutes our land, water and air and harms human health locally and globally,” offers Dr. Lem.

In addition to the opening event on July 7 from 1-3 pm, Mattson and Dr. Lem will hold a media availability at the art exhibit on July 8 between 11:00-11:30 to describe the exhibit and their rationale for organizing it.

CAPE is also hosting a documentary film screening of Fracking the Peace followed by a panel discussion on July 13, and a Meet the Artist event on July 20, in the gallery hall during the run of the exhibit in Vancouver.


Dates and registration details for the public:

July 7 – 20, 2024
Hardwick Hall and Courtyard, UBC Medical Student & Alumni Centre, 2750 Heather Street

July 7 opening event, 1-3 pm: Registration here
With welcoming remarks from Grand Chief Stewart Phillip, a reading by award-winning poet Susan Alexander, and words from Mattson and the curator

July 13 Fracking the Peace documentary screening and panel discussion, 6-8 pm: Registration here

July 20 Meet the Artist event, 6-8 pm: Registration here 

Weekend open houses July 13, 14 and 20 from 12-5 pm

Admission free or by donation. All proceeds will support exhibit costs and CAPE’s Place Based Power Project.

– 30 –

Media assets:–ujKOvgj9u?usp=sharing


Reykia Fick
Communications Director, Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)
T 604-442-1846

Karl Mattson
Farmer and artist
T 250-719-1663