The long quiet hallway stands empty on Wednesday afternoon. Outside this hall, the Suncor Leisure Centre is bustling with activity. As I stand at the entrance of the hall I am amazed at the very quantity of art in front of me. I’m alone for only a few minutes until a group of gym goers trickle into the space; I hear one of them say “ you have to come down here and see this polar bear – its amazing” she is referencing the graphite drawing of Lucas Seaward.
Above: The third section from the entrance of the gallery.
This section features the mentioned Lucas Seaward, Polar Bear piece.
As I step to the left to get out of the way of these spandex clad art enthusiasts I notice the didactic information on the left wall. Due to its small size and colour this information almost disappeared, blending in with the walls. Had I not been moved to the side and looking for it I would surely have missed the three small panels of writing. Here I learn about the mandate and contact information for the Wood Buffalo Artist Forum (WBAF), the mandate for the Gallery, as well as theme of this inaugural show, CELEBRATION.
Above: The first section of the gallery. On the far left you can see the
didactic panels mentioned in the above paragraph.
The description of the title CELEBRATION is a bit disappointing. Granted the title was chosen to celebrate the opening of the new gallery, which is a noble desire; with an un-juried open call-style show it would have been nice to have some framing for the exhibition. I was previously aware that this was an open call exhibition and that there would be a range of experience, mediums, techniques, ages and cultures represented in this show, however, I thought that the curator would make more of an attempt to unify the works with a thematic umbrella or title.
Above: Falls Dancing Sister, Kendra Waters
The gallery space is somewhat divided into five sections of wall by small pillar structures that are raised out of the wall about six inches, so when I refer to a given “section or grouping” I am meaning a space between two pillars. I started my way along the works – in the first section I felt cohesion in the grouping of images. This initial grouping housed works with landscape as the subject. The first work that really caught my eye was Falls Dancing Sisters, by Kendra Waters. This acrylic work captured the transitional few weeks – to a month when Wood Buffalo is engulfed by the yellow boreal forest. Looking at it I was immediately transported to the trails behind my house where I've enjoyed looking up as a similar canopy of colour. I enjoyed the internal dichotomy between restricted line work and the free and more intuitive aspects of Waters’s composition. She creates a great marriage between the controlled and detail oriented photo realism with some more painterly marks seen in the clouds and foliage.
Above: Femme Fatale, Carli Gaudet
The second grouping was a cacophony of colours, sizes and subjects. The combination of colour pallets and layout of works in this area was unappealing. It swung from the muted tentative watercolours to neon acrylics. By grouping these works together I was tempted to move past them to the clean black and white section up next along the hall. However, I gave my head a shake and decided to spend more time with each work and I was very pleased I did – this section had some really beautiful pieces in it. In particular I was taken with the illustration titled Femme Fatale, by Carli Gaudet. I have seen this work before as the cover for local publication North Word. Carli is a local second year visual arts student at Keyano College. In an exhibition dominated by muted realism and landscapes I was excited by his work. It shows an innovative spark and the promise of exciting things to come. This piece was the one I would have very much liked to take home with me - however, to my dismay it is not for sale. I have no doubt that should Carli enter the art/design workforce that she will be a successful illustrator/artist.
Another interesting piece is, A Light Landing, by Lisa Carlson. This work was created from small section of glossy coloured magazine pages. Above are two images of her piece, the left is the entire work, the right is a close up of the foot of the owl. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Lisa and learning a little about her practice, and I am continuously impressed with her dedication to her practice. Her attention to detail and meticulous collection of coloured pages would surely drive me mad, but somehow Lisa is able to turn so many small pieces into a cohesive and aesthetic work.
Above Left: Love American Style No 2, by Lianna Wheeldon
Above Right: Love American Style No 3, by Lianna Wheeldon
Now I know its bad form to mention my favourite piece in this exhibition but I just can’t resist.The last works on the left-hand side of the gallery were two delectable pieces by Lianna Wheeldon. The works have the same title, Love American Style no. 2 (the smaller diptych) and Love American Style no.3. Both these works felt the most resolved compositionally and thematically of all the pieces included in this exhibition. Wheeldon is a witty narrator and a gifted painter – I found her use of varnish very clever. This work held my attention for well over the sought after viewer norm of 12 seconds. I’m so excited to see more of Lianna’s work and I am hoping she will have a solo show in the gallery in the months to come.
Although the show largely features artists near the beginning of their careers and hobbyist works, it is also punctuated with some local professionals such as David Ball, Garry Berteig, Lucas Seward, Tammy Huggan and Fredrick MacDonald. To be honest I was very happy to see so many names I did not recognize – these names symbolize the potential for growth and development in the visual arts area.
Above: View of the Community Art Gallery from the end of the hall looking
back towards the main concourse.
I hope that in the future our established artist can provide mentorship and guidance for the student and emergent artist in our community. The WBAF mention that education surrounding the arts is an integral part of their group and the Gallery mandate so I am sure that there will be exciting and engaging opportunities for artists and the public alike at this gallery in the near future.
Again, well done to the entire crew of MacDonald Island staff and board, as well as the WBAF and all exhibiting artists – together you have presented our community with a valuable new resource and an amazing outlet for creative talent.