When you drive across the border into the United States from Vancouver, B.C., at Blaine (the main passageway), this is what you'll see.


That's a digital rendering of the new Lead Pencil Studio artwork Non-Sign II, which is just what it says: A non-sign. The sign part is empty air; the rest is a web of metal pieces.

I talked to the artists recently about this piece, which they were commissioned to do by the federal government as it renovated the border-crossing station. Placing an artwork on a border is a great opportunity, but a weird one, too, since something like 90 percent of people will be driving by and not able to stop for an extended look. (The piece is situated on the American side of the border, just after you cross back in, along your route back onto the highway from the checkpoints.)

They noticed the way the area is packed with signs—advertising billboards, and then, closer to the border, a proliferation of government signs. Their hope is that their sign, flying by enigmatically ("What was that?"), will add a little bit of awareness to the whole signage landscape in the border zone. Just open up a free space, really. How very American. The empty rectangle frames only a view of sky as you drive by, nothing else.*

The artists are giving a talk about Non-Sign II at 4 pm on Thursday, October 28, in the Old Main Theater at Western Washington University in Bellingham. The lecture's free.

*Trivia: The Peace Arch at the border was designed by Sam Hill, the creator of the Maryhill Museum of Art, which Lead Pencil Studio created Maryhill Double in homage to back in 2006. They can't seem to get away from Sam Hill.