Spring officially starts on March 20 and some Yukoners might tell you that the winter weather is not over yet. If you are looking to escape the cold to a new destination, you only need to go as far as the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre in Whitehorse.
There you can try slipping into virtual reality (VR) and visiting the world of Coast Salish and Okanagan artist Lawrence Paul Yuxweluptun through his piece “Unceded Territories.”
The VR experience was created by Paisley Smith, a filmmaker and virtual reality creator from British Columbia. Smith was inspired to make a digital landscape out of Yuxweluptun’s paintings when she learned that he had dabbled in VR back in 1992, making “Inherent Rights, Vision Rights” — a work that transports viewers into a traditional longhouse to experience a ceremony complete with music, fire and spirits. Smith considers it a pioneering piece of the VR genre of art.
Yuxweluptun’s art is inspired by Coast Salish traditional works and influenced by the western world.
“Unceded Territories” places participants in a forest full of trees and bears, throwing wet globs of an unknown substance with virtual hands.
“Why are you throwing that oil?” booms the great spirit bear, voiced by Yuxweluptun. “Can’t you see you are hurting Mother Earth?”
The world then bursts into flames and turns black.
“Now everything is dead. No more birds to sing,” the spirit bear chimes.
The whole experience is set to the sounds of Ontario’s Indigenous electronic music duo formerly known as A Tribe Called Red, now called The Halluci Nation.
Ovoidism is the star of the show
As participants approach the VR headset behind black curtains in the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre, they are able to stop and take in a short film about the project called “Beyond Unceded Territories.”
The movie explains that the piece of work “pits a ‘Super Predator’ against the environment. But the star of the show is the colourful ‘Ovoidism,’ that evokes Indigenous culture, world view, and relationship with the natural word.”
An ovoid is “one of the basic shapes of traditional Northwest Coast art,” according to the Simon Fraser University Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology in British Columbia.
The shape’s defining characteristics are its concave base, convex top, and rounded corners.
“The Manifesto of Ovoidism” penned by Yuxweluptun and published in 2003, lays out the rules of the art form stating the focus of the Ovoidism style is to “maintain some part of, or all of, the shape of the ovoid.”
The manifesto also says that ovoid painting can be used to make political and joyous statements.
‘The ways of life are taught through the paintings’
Kailen Gingell is a Kwanlin Dün First Nation beneficiary of Tlingit descent and the curator that brought “Unceded Territories” to the cultural centre.
Ginigell says he first learned about Yuxweluptun when he was in art school in B.C. When he started working as the cultural program coordinator at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre he found a book in their collection that features the Coast Salish artist’s work on the cover, inspiring him to seek out Yuxweluptun’s latest project. After reaching out to Smith and messaging back and forth, the exhibit was sent to Whitehorse. That was the first time Gingell ever put on a VR headset.
“It was very surreal checking out something like that,” Gingell.
Gingell says he thinks the artwork is something that a lot of people here at home can appreciate.
“A lot of Kwanlin Dün citizens have that Inland Tlingit descent and ties to the sea and coast. Trading would happen up and down the coast between our people. I thought that the parallels between the more southern coastal style and our styles up here was really interesting,” Gingell explains.
“In our artwork we have a lot of blacks and reds. Down [south] they have more access to colours and then Yuxweluptun takes that another step further with his surrealism,” adds Gingell.
Gingell also says that he thinks the art’s message of interconnectedness is something that is similarly expressed in Yukon First Nations art.
“You can’t have eagle without having the whale,” Gingell said.
“The ways of life are taught through the paintings.”
As for how Gingell interprets the meaning behind the VR piece, “I see it as colonialism and how it really has an effect on the landscape. I know one single person might not have the effect that is really detrimental but once you have a million people acting in a consumerist way, and companies built off of exploiting the landscape, and stuff like that, I think you start to see that the effects are detrimental to Mother Earth.”
Yuxweluptun was not available for comment on the piece. Sources say he is difficult to get ahold of these days, as he may be spending a lot of time on the land and away from technology.
You can check out the VR experience for yourself at the Kwanlin Dün Cultural Centre gallery weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. until March 31.
Dylan MacNeil is a CHON-FM reporter and writer based in Whitehorse.
ARTS AROUND: Last chance to view children’s exhibit at Rollin Art Centre – Alberni Valley News
This week is your last chance to view an art exhibit featuring local Port Alberni children.
“Moments in Time” is the current art exhibit at the Rollin Art Centre. It is a collaboration of children’s art organized by the Early Childhood Educators of B.C. Port Alberni branch, which looks at the world through children’s eyes.
The exhibit runs until May 20. The Rollin Art Centre is open Tuesday to Saturday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and is located at the corner of Eighth Avenue and Argyle Street.
“SPRING – Seasonal Imagery” is the title of the next art exhibit at the Rollin Art Centre. This exhibit will reflect the gentle changes of the season and create a unique mood and feeling associated with this season based on your interpersonal reflection.
Join us in the gallery on Saturday, May 28 for refreshments and an opportunity to meet with some of the featured artists: Janice Sheehan, Mae LaBlanc, Joan Akerman, Jayant Chaudhary, Cathy Stewart, Cynthia Bonesky, Mary Ann McGrath, Cheryl Frehlich, Dodie Manifold, Patrick Larose and Karen Poirier. The exhibit open May 25.
Two-Day Watercolour Workshop at Rollin Art Centre — June 1 and 2 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. — Ionne McCauley is an accomplished artist, quilter, and author, currently living in Qualicum Beach, who has taught colour workshops for more than 25 years. Next month, she will teach the basics of colour theory and pigments during a watercolour workshop in Port Alberni. In this workshop, you will learn about value, hue, tone, shade and saturation. Explore the learnable magic of watercolour paints, how to achieve glowing colours and how to choose (and use) pigments for exciting colour combinations.
Workshop Fee is $150 and supply fee (paid to the instructor) is $20. Register at the Rollin Art Centre: 250-724-3412. Numbers are limited.
One-Day Acrylic Workshop at Rollin Art Centre — Saturday July 16 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. — When you think of landscapes, you might think “Oh that’s too complicated.” Not so! If you break it down into simple shapes, it becomes easy and fun. In this workshop, Susan Schaefer will guide you through landscapes, discussing what makes a good composition while simplifying your landscape. Schaefer has been a professional artist for the past 20 years and has taken workshops from some of Canada’s finest artists. She has a fun and relaxed way of teaching, working with students at their individual level and ensuring a good learning experience for all.
Workshop Fee is $115 +GST and a supply list is available. Register at the Rollin Art Centre: 250-724-3412. Numbers are limited.
LOOKING FOR ARTISTS
The annual Solstice Arts Festival is back after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19. Join us Saturday, June 18 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Rollin Art Centre.
Spaces are available for artists and artisans on our terrace or in our two gardens. There is lots of room to spread out and it is a picture-perfect spot to set up an easel or demos of the artwork you create.
If you are interested in displaying at this year’s free family event, call the Rollin Art Centre at 250-724-3412 for more info. Spaces are $25 for the day.
Teas on the Terrace events are back at the Rollin Art Centre. Tickets are now on sale at a cost of $20 for our strawberry teas and $25 for a “High Tea.”
The first tea will take place July 7, with musical guest to be announced.
June 1 and 2 – Workshop – “Watercolour – The Basics of Colour Theory and Pigments”
June 18 – Solstice Arts Festival – Spaces available for artisans
June 22 – July 22 – “Women’s Work” – group exhibit – Sue Thomas, Jillian Mayne, Colleen Clancy, and Ann McIvor
July and August – Teas on the Terrace – Tickets available now
Melissa Martin is the Arts Administrator for the Community Arts Council, at the Rollin Art Centre and writes for the Alberni Valley News. Call 250-724-3412. Email: email@example.com.
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The artwork in the new council chambers at the Jubilee Centre reflects the hopes and beliefs that local First Nation and Métis peoples have for reconciliation.
But Frederick McDonald, an artist from the Fort McKay First Nation commissioned for the paintings, made sure people at an April 25 unveiling ceremony didn’t forget why the artwork was made in the first place.
In a nine-minute poem, McDonald made people at the ceremony confront the legacies of the residential school system, 60s scoop and colonialism have on Indigenous peoples.
He talked about the high rates of homelessness, drug and alcohol addictions, unemployment, food insecurity and suicide found today in Indigenous communities across Canada.
His poem discussed the racism and discrimination inflicted upon Indigenous peoples by some leaders in politics, policing, health care, education, religion and business. He blasted the RCMP’s role in enforcing these policies throughout the years.
Politicians from all levels and parties were skewered. Even racist depictions of Indigenous people in movies and TV shows weren’t spared in his poem. If people listening to his poetry felt uncomfortable, that was his point.
“Have you heard enough? Have you had enough? Do you want to do something? Really, you still want to talk about truth and reconciliation?” he said.
“If you do, let’s talk about healing. Let’s talk about all our pains: there’s, your’s and mine. Let’s talk about the drum’s. Let’s talk about the dance. Let’s talk about celebrations and ceremony, about differences of culture, about understanding and working together. So much to do. So much to do. So let’s begin.”
McDonald’s poem captured the rage felt by so many First Nation, Métis and Inuit people, but his three paintings in the council chambers reflects his optimism in the future. He wanted his art to acknowledge the past but not dwell on pain or anger. This was also insisted upon by an elders council.
“As Aboriginal people, we want to be able to tell our own stories, so that’s what these paintings are all about,” said McDonald. “It’s about us sharing our stories, sharing them in a positive manner, working towards the future together—not side-by-side, not separate—but together going forward.”
A fourth piece is a talking stick, which was created by Elder Shurley Arthurs of the Fort McMurray First Nation 468. It sits at the desk where guest speakers address council. All the pieces were bound by teachings of honesty, love, truth, humility, wisdom, courage and respect.
“We hope relations between all people will continue to flourish. That is my big wish. I pray for that everyday. Because with the world as it is, who knows how much short time we have?” said Arthurs. “Love the people around you. It’s very important.”
Council decided in 2019 that the artwork for the new chambers would be completed by Indigenous artists, following a motion made by Councillor Keith McGrath. A committee was formed that included elders, knowledge keepers and creatives from Indigenous communities in the region.
Mayor Sandy Bowman said the art will remind council of the Indigenous history of this region, which serves “as a constant reminder to unite, and foster change and understanding.”
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