Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Urban Infill: Art in the Core in it's 7th Year

     The Urban Infill: Art in the Core event runs from this Saturday to Tuesday. The gala “downtown wide” opening reception for the art show and launch for Urban Infill is this Saturday at 7pm at the Definitely Superior Galleries at 250 Park Avenue. 
     The DEFSUP gallery is a good place to start your tour of Port Arthur, and hit the venues offering live music, dance performances, a drag queen show, live window displays, along with art featured in retail locations, including paintings, drawings, ceramics, wearable art, photography, and sculpture. This is work by members of the DEFSUP gallery, Lakehead University Visual Art student graduates, Confederation College film and multi-media students, and the Die Active Youth Collective. With an additional space provided by the former RBC Bank, and other locations, there is an extra 10,000 square feet to display work. Work from the Anishinabee Art Gallery will be displayed, along with shows at Gallery 33, The Picture Store, and the Painted Turtle.
     If you’re not sure where to start you can take advantage of the map and/or the high energy “Performative Tour Guides.” 
     An event like this infuses people and hope into the north core, an area that still suffers from ugliness and frightens some residents away. With great restaurants and a couple more opening up, along with new retail experiences and new prospects envisioned by city planners and politicians, it’s very likely that businesses and landlords will do more to help beautify the north core further.
     The DEFSUP gallery’s commitment to infusing the arts into the community performs a primary function of art, that of beautification. As experimental, egalitarian, and short term as it might seem, this event has resulted in a majority of the empty spaces it used in the past to “become vibrant commercial shops and galleries.” So, as the title of the event suggests, Urban Infill, does in fact fill in the spaces.
     On a spiritual and emotional level, events like these bring a needed alternative vibrancy to the city. It used to be, especially in Europe, that the average literate citizen, businessperson and politician, intuitively understood the benefits of mixing art and business.
     Once artists did too, during the days when galleries didn’t exist. They were employed for their ability to beautify, and focused less on the emotional and introspective. Today our contemporary artists, whose goals are very different from artists of the past, often claim business and marketing an anathema to their goals, but they too are discovering the value of investing themselves and their art into the community. Quid pro quo; and we all benefit.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Printmaker, Brian Holden at the Baggage Building

Brian Holden is looking forward to his placement at the Baggage Building at Prince Arthur’s Landing in the month of April. He excited about big sinks, lots of light, and lots of floor space in which he will be working and interacting with the public who can come in and try their hand at printmaking. Working as a printmaker in Thunder Bay for nearly thirty years, and twenty years as an arts educator for children and adults, Brian has extensive experience. So, if you’ve never heard of such processes as intaglio, dry point, and monotype, Brian will have materials, samples, and even tutorials on his laptop available for your learning pleasure. He will also have his wonderful work on display.

For a workshop in Dryden this weekend, and others Brian has done in the past, funding comes from two programs; Northern Arts and Artist in Education, branches of the Ontario Arts Council. For the latter, teachers choose artists and workshops they wish to have in their school. Brian has also worked extensively with CAHEP (Community Arts & Heritage Education Project). With major funding cutbacks to the school system by previous provincial governments this funding is very valuable to Northern communities, and helps keep worthwhile artists like Brian in our area.

To suggest that artists would leave if they didn’t get funding, sounds like an insult to the area, but what most artists know is that a bigger city will have the infrastructure and population to support them as artists. But Brian is bound to the land more than most of us artists. “I like my trees and I like my rocks. They just don’t want to leave me. And of course the landscape of the region that I live in, keeps motivating and inspiring me. I keep thinking I’ll get sick of it, but it hasn’t happened. This is something inbred. It’s a calling.”

Years ago, Brian was producing the most beautiful and delicate little graphite drawings, much like the work of Renaissance artist, Albrecht Durer. Brian shows equal passion for the printmaking processes in which he immerses himself, learning as much as he can with materials that are as environmentally friendly as possible.

With a New Works project grant from the OAC, Brian is researching how plant and animal species at risk in the region are readapting, relocating or disappearing altogether as a result of climate change. With information obtained from the MNR and soon from members of the Field Naturalist Association, Brian will head into the bush to make his own observations. He wants to raise awareness of the changing diversity in the region, along with the challenges of studying these changes, both due to Global Warming. Brian is delving into themes of conservancy, environmentalism, and science based knowledge in order to create a series of beautiful new miniature works.

Brian is also a longtime member of the Lakehead Visual Arts Club. The group is having their 60 Anniversary Showcase show for the entire month of April at their old haunt, the Baggage Building. Events put on by the LVA are listed on a calendar that can be downloaded from this link, www.thunderbay.ca/artscentre. There is also a gala on Saturday, the 6th of April. Brian can be reached through his website at www.brianholden.ca.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

Lakehead University Student Art Show at the TBAG

Students of the Lakehead University Fine Arts program are showing their talents at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery till the end of this month, beginning with what will be a packed opening tomorrow night at 7:30pm. Your trek through the snow will be worthwhile as the Annual Juried and Major Exhibition features competent and deftly created works of art. What also makes this show outstanding is the humour, much of it daring to make a point, with strong imagery reflecting a keen interest in wanting to change our ways and opinions, one major function of art.

This exhibition features dozens of artists working in a variety of styles, hitting on various themes. A few students used cows as a means of making statements, so cow puns could be used to describe this udderly great show, however it’s best to get your kicks by seeing the work rather than reading about it. Unfortunately there are so many young artists, they can’t all be covered, although they are all worthy.

There are more than a few very good portrait works reflecting the artists desire to be thoughtful towards the person depicted, and as a means of making a statement.  Brittany Kennedy in her portraits seeks to bring recognition and honour to the working class by depicting people we are likely to know in the community. Vicki Lundmark’s painting, His Shirt, brilliantly suggests loss and emotional upheaval with unusual and striking imagery, and again makes a statement using a grinning female skeleton as she dresses herself with flesh. Vanessa Herbert distorts her face in images as a means of searching for identity. Michelle C. Kivi cleverly uses paint on her sculptural piece to split a face so it plays with your eyes as you walk back and forth in front of it. Kristin Jorgenson painted a wonderful little portrait of Charlie, capturing his age and weather-beaten face with fine detail. Kathleen Murray pulls off a stunning self-portrait that she should enter into the Kingston Prize competition.

The sculptures are likely to generate the most discussion. Gayle Buzzi’s ceramic fox really does look neglected and needs a home. Katie Lemieux’s rabbit, titled, Rabbid, is unnervingly human. Lassel Pohjalainen put a lot of work into the large wood sculpture, Got the Whole World, complete with a ball that turns slowly in the giant wooden hand. Danielle Montgomery’s, Original Cheeseburger, will make you laugh, and might turn children into vegetarians. And even more cows are depicted when they walk the plank in Danielle’s, Industrial Cows. Katie Lemieux contributes to the related cow themes with an untitled ceramic work where breasts and udders are exchanged. This piece is begging for a title.

There are lots of little surprises too. Piper Vezina’s, Cloud Scape, is a very lovely little landscape making one wish winter would go away. Samantha Armstrong goes for the gothic and references, The Nightmare, by Henri Fuseli, in her small and spooky digital drawing. Bigger surprises are the variety of clever abstract and surreal pieces interspersed throughout the show that have more cerebral goals with personal and aesthetic statements.

What is wonderful about this show is the exciting possibilities that these students present as contributors to the arts communities in which they will eventually take part. One can hope that many of them will find Thunder Bay worthy of contribution.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Fun at Gallery Openings

[MY APOLOGIES!! The opening of the Student Show at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery is next week, Friday the 15th, not tomorrow night as I wrote earlier.]

Years ago, an established Canadian artist displayed his large canvases at the Thunder Bay Art gallery. At the show’s opening, a seven year-old boy yelled across the crowded room, “This guy isn’t a very good painter, is he Dad?” Many cringed, some smiled. A man in a cream coat suddenly hunched and made for the doorway into the adjacent gallery. Upset his father was attempting to temporarily disown him, the boy quickly followed, yelling, “DAD! HEY DAD!”

Many parents don’t bring their kids to openings at galleries as children can express unfiltered opinions, like having a giggle fest in front of a nude painting, sitting on the art, or ripping a protruding element from an installation piece. But it can be endearing to see honest expression, a quality we adults have muted in order to be socially acceptable.

Most artists are genuine, sensitive and endearing and many artists aren’t about being quiet, modest, or socially acceptable. They can be characters, rebels, and miscreants, full of opinion about everything.  Some are outright hostile and weird, but it’s hard to tell if it’s an act. Even so, the stranger the artist, the better the story you have to tell later after the encounter.

A gallery opening is a great place to encounter artists, to learn what the art is about, and how people react to it. It’s also a place to meet people, and to share opinions. Artists aren’t shy about sharing their opinions, so why bother restraining oneself. Let opinion fly, hopefully without yelling.

And if you want to make an impression, the opening of a show is the best time to buy a work of art. When red dots appear on the tags, everyone gets happy, and the buzz continues for days after, sometimes months, even years for those involved. Red dots won’t appear on artwork tags at public galleries, but the work is most often for sale if one asks. Should you buy a work of art, or sell one, please brag about it. It does all us artists good. There’s no buzz if nobody knows about it.

Galleries in Victoria had a great turnout when a number of them held their openings the same night. Downtown restaurants and coffee shops benefited as well. An event called Art Zoom in Thunder Bay, begun by artist Linda Dell, had great turnouts for the three years that they ran, but its timing, during cold winter nights and competition for attention with a truck parade of lights, didn’t help. The amount of work involved in organizing the event was too much for the limited funding, and for Linda who did the bulk of the work. However, it would be great to have another Art Zoom some time in the summer or fall.

In Thunder Bay, there are a number of gallery openings coming up that are highly recommended. Tomorrow night, 40 artists of the Lakehead Visual Ats group and the Water Colour Society, are showing their work at a large opening at Gallery 33 from 7 to 9pm at 33 Cumberland St.

Also, the Thunder Bay Art gallery has an opening at 7:30, NEXT WEEK, Friday, March 15, of Major Studio shows for its fourth year students and a juried show for other students. The place will be packed, and it will be great to see who might become contributors to our local art scene.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Creative Energy at the Waterfront

The Baggage Building Arts Centre is off to a good start in the last few months aiming to be “a workshop for new artistic creations” and “an incubator for creative people and organizations.” There are monthly exhibits with artists in residence and a gift gallery. This commercial space, located on the second floor, displays the work of local artists, jewelers, authors, and more.

Currently, exhibiting a show called “A Superior Experience,” the walls of the centre and gift shop are covered with a variety of artists’ work, with about 36 artists displayed. The works are very colourful and represent a good spread of styles, mostly beautiful landscapes and a few surprises. In one corner of the gift shop is a section that features a new artist every month.

For the month of March, accomplished portrait and figurative artist, Anna Jane, will display her drawings and paintings. Anna is a relatively recent graduate of the Lakehead University Fine Arts program. For her young age she is very accomplished and continues to develop an individual professional style. She draws and paints in intricate detail with dramatic and endearing beauty, leaning towards hyperrealism and hinting at the kind of animal and plant symbolism found in the works of the 19th Century Pre-Raphaelites.

It’s clear that Anna loves to play with strong shadows and sharp contrasts. She employs a surreal approach with long swirls of bright colour that stream and splash from the bodies of her subjects, making her work fun and playful, yet asking to be read more deeply.  

A short walk from the Arts Centre, is Gallery 33, across from the excellent Thai Kitchen. This is a commercial art gallery displaying up to 50 local artists’ work. The place is very spacious, so each artist has lots of room to hang more than a sampling. The quality ranges from novice to professional. A large amount of wall space is donated to aspiring students of art. The gallery sells jewelry and books by local authors along with other items. The stairs to the basement leads to The Painted Turtle.

Hannah, the owner of Gallery 33 is looking to complete renovations started when the gallery was called Local Colour. The floor needs some character as it is unfinished. For this, Hannah is asking for donations of pennies as she plans to use them as the decorative material for tiles that she will make for the flooring. She hasn’t figured out entirely the method for doing so, as it could be an expensive endeavour, but the result could be amazing, along with being a historical nod to the year we got rid of the penny. Hannah could be undertaking the most impressive flooring venture in Thunder Bay. So bring in your pennies for the big penny jar and penny bucket.