Recycling

Art on air conditioners: NSCAD University grad creates ‘cool’ art

Hunter Lewis Lake works with old air conditioner radiators

Recycling is a key point of Hunter Lewis Lake’s art.   Nader Nadernejad

While many artists opt for a cloth canvas, Hunter Lewis Lake uses air conditioners.

It all started three years ago when he found an air conditioner radiator in a Burnside scrapyard, pressed his fingers against the coils and carved a lightning bolt into it.

“It was a eureka moment,” says Lake.

Lake, 25, does contract snow removal on weekdays and makes crepes at the Halifax Seaport Farmers’ Market on Saturday mornings.

The rest of his time is spent creating art on air conditioners.

“My art is a statement about capitalism and the heating and air conditioning industry, which not only makes millions of dollars a year but is harmful to the environment,” says Lake.

He says his technique is rooted in traditional drawing because he creates tonal contrasts on the air conditioner radiators that look like recognizable images.

Just like an artist would create a drawing by combining light and dark spaces, Lake contrasts shadow and light by pressing on certain areas of the radiator and leaving the rest untouched.

Lake has exhibited his artwork at the Gardiner Museum in Toronto, the Modulating Mansion in Halifax and at NSCAD University, his alma mater.

Lake says most of his customers come from Halifax and learn about his art through word of mouth. A personalized piece can cost up to several thousand dollars.

‘Very innovative’

Robert Richardson, the VP and CFO of Killam Properties, is one of Lake’s regular customers.  

Richardson met Lake at a NSCAD art exhibit when Lake first started producing art on air conditioners. He was instantly drawn to Lake’s artwork and purchased a piece from him that night.

“I recognized what it was made of and I thought that it was very innovative,” says Richardson.

“What attracted me was the medium he uses, which is refrigeration coils from industrial refrigerators and heating units from the top of buildings.”

This fascinated Richardson, who was used to seeing them while working in commercial real estate.

Richardson later made a bargain with Lake to give him a workspace for a couple of months in exchange for more art.

“I have four pieces from Hunter and they’re all quite different,” says Richardson.

“If he talks to you at length, he talks about how important cooling systems are to the progression of society.”

Marilyn, Elvis, Jay-Z

Lake gets the materials for his artwork from NSCAD University and uses everyday household items like butter knives to carve his designs into the air conditioners.

Some of his designs are of singers and movie stars, while others include witty sayings and creative wordplay. His creations feature pop culture icons such as Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, Jay-Z and Drake.

“I use notable images in many of my designs so that everyday people can relate to my work,” says Lake.

Lake’s favourite creation is called Solid Cold, a copper and aluminum air conditioner that becomes frosted in ice when turned on.

“I don’t think I’ll ever sell this one because it’s worth its weight in gold to me,” says Lake.

Lake hopes his artwork encourages people to reuse and recycle and inspire, and think creatively.

“I think we should focus on living sustainably instead of trying to consume more than we need.”