The barge at English Bay shows no end of inspiring Vancouverites.
Laakkuluk Williamson Bathory has won this year’s Sobey Art Award for emerging artists.
The Iqaluit-based Inuk multidisciplinary artist received the $100,000 prize at a ceremony at the National Gallery of Canada on Saturday.
She is known for performing uaajeerneq, a Greenlandic mask dance that involves storytelling centred around three elements: fear, humour and sexuality.
In a news release announcing the award, Williamson Bathory said she uses her art to tell her own story and that of her family, which she says is one of “joy and celebration, awe and difficulty, beauty and destruction all at once.”
“In a time when we recognize that this Canadian soil bears the small bodies of many thousands of Indigenous children, in an era when we work through colonial institutions to keep our families safe in the pandemic and at a moment when the Arctic city I live [in] does not have potable water coming from the taps, I am proud to be recognized as I tell you the story of a momentous experience my family had on the land,” she said.
The Sobey Art Award celebrates emerging talent in the contemporary visual arts and is jointly administered by the Sobey Art Foundation and the National Gallery of Canada.
The jury consisted of Canadian curators and two international jurors. In the release, they said Williamson Bathory “provocatively transforms the framework of references for contemporary art.”
“Williamson Bathory’s performance practice courageously defies preconceived notions through embodied lived experience,” the jury said. “Her works invite us to share in a world abundant with possibility infused with the interconnections of land, family, community and cultural knowledge.”
Williamson Bathory was chosen from a shortlist of five artists, each one representing a geographic region of Canada.
The four other shortlisted artists — Lorna Bauer, Rémi Belliveau, Gabi Dao, and Rajni Perera — received $25,000 each.
Along with Williamson Bathory, they are currently featured in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Canada until Feb. 20, 2022.
The remaining 20 longlisted artists received $10,000 each.
The barge at English Bay shows no end of inspiring Vancouverites.
One of the memes circulating online is calling the barge — which became grounded at English Bay during a severe storm last month — a public art installation.
On Twitter, Greg @goldenmulletman said Monday after a failed attempt to remove the barge, “Hey @CityofVancouver you should admit defeat and declare this barge an urban art installation.”
Someone who knows about public art is Barrie Mowatt, founder and president of the Vancouver Biennale , the region’s outdoor public art exhibition.
He said the barge isn’t public art, but could be.
“It is in the public and in its current position artful, but it’s not public art in the sense of how we define public art,” he said. “It does certainly draw people’s attention and get them connected with the space. It’s cool in that sense.”
Mowatt said the barge could become public art if it was incorporated into a narrative about the former industrial heritage of False Creek, for example, and how the city has changed since. As well, he suggested it could be painted and turned into a mural, but in a way that didn’t look like graffiti.
“Yes, it could become an interesting piece of public art,” he said from Palm Springs. “As it is now, with good signage, it could create dialogue and engagement about what is public art.”
Not everyone agrees with the idea the barge is or could be public art.
On Wednesday morning, Jo-Ann Heinz cycled from Yaletown to English Bay and Sunset Beach to see the barge because a friend contacted her to say something was happening. Nothing did, even though a high tide and whitecaps on the water all suggested movement.
“I’m just kind of curious to see how they get this monstrosity off the seawall,” she said.
Heinz said while the barge could be turned into a restaurant, she questioned the idea that it was already an example of public art just by its position on the rocks.
Heinz is a sailor who has been around the world and seen similar examples of wrecked vessels abandoned on the shore. She called them eyesores.
“This is an eyesore,” she said. “We’re in Vancouver. We should be able to figure out how to get this off the shore.”
It looks like the barge will be at home on English Bay for a few more days.
The City of Vancouver said Wednesday that Transport Canada has received a plan to move the barge from its owner.
“In the coming days, the barge will be assessed and repaired as needed in preparation for its removal,” the city said by email.
The homophonic link between “Barge on the Beach” and “Bard on the Beach” has inspired a parody of a famous speech from the play Henry V by William Shakespeare.
Christopher Gaze, founder and artistic director of Bard on the Beach , Vancouver’s summer Shakespeare festival, said he thought of the play’s famous St. Crispin’s Day speech given by the king on the eve of the Battle of Agincourt. The speech was meant to inspire the outnumbered English forces to overcome the French.
In Gaze’s version, the speech is about the failure to float the barge away on the king tide that would have lifted the barge like “Noah’s flood.”
“This day is called the Barge on the Beach day/We that shall live this day and come safe home/Will stand a tiptoe when this day is named/And rouse us at the sight of the Barge on the rocks./West End residents that shall live this day and see old age will/yearly feast their neighbours/And say, tomorrow is the bedevilled Barge Day …”
Gaze said the timing focuses attention on Bard on the Beach, which returns to Vanier Park/Senakw next summer after being cancelled for two years because of the pandemic.
Carmella Klassen paints a snowman in the window of the Fort St. John Association for Community Living’s Art of Inclusion studio on 100 Avenue.
The art program began earlier this year, and recently moved into a standalone studio down the street from the ACL office, where members show up to sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays to learn how to work with paints and pastels, linocuts and silkscreens, and other mixed-media techniques.
“I love art,” says Klassen, who has been taking part in the program since the beginning. “I make something new every time, and I want to learn how to do different things. Lorna is one of the best teachers I can think of.”
Klassen is referring to Montney artist Lorna Penner, who has been helping out with instruction since August. On Tuesday afternoon, Penner was working with Klassen and others on mixed-media self-evaluations and teaching them how to paint with pastels.
“It’s talking about how they feel when they do art. They’re very determined, they’re unique,” says Penner.
Penner works with about four students per session, which she says is perfect. “We can really get into things very deep,” says Penner.
The studio recently held a printmaking open house for family and friends, and exhibited a COVID-19 show at Peace Gallery North earlier this year.
The program wraps for the holidays next week and will continue in the new year.
Email Managing Editor Matt Preprost at firstname.lastname@example.org
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