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Monday, September 8, 2014

A reluctant environmentalist (former oil field worker turned artist)

"“I’m not trying to get money for my land, I’m just trying to relate to these companies on their level,” says Tiesenhausen from his home near Demmitt, Alberta. “Once I started charging $500 an hour for oil companies to come talk to me, the meetings got shorter and few and far between.” Tiesenhausen is in a unique position to understand both the realities of industry and the value of the natural world. As a young boy working on the family ranch, his daily job of surveying the cattle left him with an intimate understanding of the family’s land. He left school at 17 to work in the oil fields and eventually found himself in the Yukon in the early ’80s, digging away at surface gold mines. Before he committed to being a full-time artist in 1990, he worked crushing boulders in Antarctica while building an airstrip through the permafrost.
Today, Tiesenhausen is an artist, an active member of his community and a somewhat reluctant environmental icon. “I’m just a guy that likes to have an exciting life,” he says earnestly. “I went to the gold fields, worked in Antarctica, but what I found was that staying at home and making art was the most exciting my life ever got.”
In 2003, he presented his copyright argument before the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board, which told him that copyright law was beyond its jurisdiction and he would need to pursue that in the courts. So far that hasn’t been necessary. The oil and gas companies have since backed off, even paying for an expensive rerouting of pipelines, and have yet to bother testing his copyright."