Thursday, 30 May 2013

Great High School Work at the Thunder Bay Art Gallery

    What to do, what to say, how to react, and how to interpret how others treat them as either a child or as an adult can confuse young adults, caught in the child/adult stage of development.
     When it comes to painting, sculpting, printing and being generally creative, they relax a little, and the ratio of the child/adult mix is often obvious in the art. Some young students revel in their childhood interests and paint copies of Johnny Depp, Disney characters, Batman, etc. Others explore a bit of the mix with Goth images, culture mixes (South American, aboriginal), figure studies, faces that drip and clothes that explode with colour.
     And then others leap forward with outright adult work, both in terms of skill and subject matter. A few manage to pull off work that even professional artists would be hard pressed to reproduce.
     As in the case of grade eleven student, Santana Paleske from Queen Elizabeth District High School, in a work called, You’ve Had Enough Sugar. Here you can see the amazing drawing skills of a professional artist, taking advantage of a common theme, and making a wonderful and very human statement about our inability to control our childlike desires. The thrill in the little girl’s face is awesome. We immediately pick up on the feelings she must have, sinking her teeth into that most awesome cupcake. The girl has entranced and startled eyes, and although we don’t see her mouth, the marshmallows mimic giant teeth and the pink of the cupcake resemble lips, as if the cupcake itself were a surreal distorted mouth representing the uncontrollable animated delight of emotions related to eating. Here’s an artist who has used that knowledge of one positive aspect of being a child, and capturing it masterfully. Santana! Do not sell this drawing for less than $2,000.00!
    Whatever stage of maturity these students are at they have the desire to stretch their skills, to see what they can accomplish, and although the subject matter might not be original, as when copied from a photograph, the excitement is genuine.
     Being part of a big show is fun too, and the students get a confidence boost by having their work on display, and a taste of what it’s like showing work. They also get to share and learn what other students are up to in terms of technique, skill and subject matter.
     Crammed on the walls of the Thunder Bay Art Gallery are the works of students from the majority of high schools in town, both public and Catholic, along with Geraldton Composite High, Marathon High, and Nipigon-Red Rock. There are noteworthy young up-and-coming artists from each school.
A particularly rough acrylic painting by Willa Ratz (grade 10 from Superior CVI) called, Don’t Look Back, is very reminiscent of the artist Maxwell Bates. Bates overcame skill troubles by representing the human condition. Messy art with worthwhile subject matter can have associations with us emotionally messy people.       
     Willa picks up on this aspect of our human condition by painting a young man who loves speed, loves life and a little danger. As the road blurs ahead of him he looks behind, but he is not worried. His image in the mirror is also blurred as if speed blurs one from truly looking at oneself. He doesn’t need to look back, but he does for the viewer’s benefit, so he’s not all about himself. He’s taking account of you, the viewer, as a rider on the back of his ATV. He’ll keep you safe. What a great painting. It’s as good as any of Bates’ work.
     There are lots of great works and young artists worthy of attention. This is most definitely a show worth checking out. You will be impressed. It’s filled with humour, talent and surprises in a variety of mediums ­– painting, sculpture, glasswork, printmaking, and more. And this says something about the art teachers in the region as well. Good on you for inspiring so many young artists.
    This show is highly recommended. 

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