Some people respond to public tragedy with cries of outrage and grief. Others work to unite the community with rallies of white ribbons and messages of support. Then there are those who prefer more permanent symbols to demonstrate their deepest emotions.
When Wayne Ashley heard that Const. David Wynn died after the tragic shooting in January that rocked the city and the nation, the artist went to work on just such a symbol. He created a tile and stone mosaic piece of art as an offering of love and support to the RCMP.
“That was the right thing to do: to go there and pay respect to him,” Ashley said of Wynn. “He gave the ultimate sacrifice. For humanity, that’s the highest thing you can do. It was above the call of duty.”
Ashley has gained a certain amount of notoriety as an artist who creates large tile monuments and donates them to places of national tragedy or other significantly emotional subjects.
Previous monuments were offered to Newtown, Mass., after a school shooting there gained international attention. He also delivered two monuments to the City of New York: one in tribute to those who died during the 9/11 tragedy and another for the victims of Hurricane Sandy.
Here, his works can be found in the Holy Cross Cemetery just outside of St. Albert and another at the Driftpile First Nation. He estimated the value of all of these monuments in the millions of dollars.
This work is tied to the monument located inside Edmonton’s City Hall, he mentioned, noting that that one is a tribute to firefighters, police officers and other emergency first responders who work to save lives at their own peril on a daily basis. It made sense for this piece to go to the RCMP detachment.
“It’s an extension of that monument. That’s why it should go there,” he said. “They accepted it and they were quite appreciative of it.”
The tile and stone work is laser engraved with a photo of Wynn along with a saying that Ashley wrote to describe the symbolism:
“Buffalo always stay together and walk the same path.
There is always a leader who stands forward to see the best path.
The sun and the moon represent life and death.
The moon nestling with the sun signifies man’s need to rest so he can appreciate life and family.”
Ashley ended by affirming that he does this work out of the goodness in his heart with the hopes that it spreads a wider message of peace and love.
“That’s what I’ve been doing for so many years now. It’s not really about me. It’s about a message that we all do respect life, and we all respect what these men and women do. Sometimes actions are better than words,” he said, adding that talking about grief is important for personal healing but his work is about permanent tribute.
“I believe that action speaks louder than words at times like this. To show your appreciation and respect for a man like that … there’s no other choice.”
Representatives from the RCMP indicated that there is still no firm plan on where to mount the piece at the detachment.