After the challenging year and a half that has seen many art events downsized or sent online, The Works: Activated! provided a great public art festival for in-person audiences. Organizers believe that the event, which ran from July 7 to 17, could act as a precursor for other art events in the future.
After Churchill Square was largely empty for the previous year and a half, the festival brought the location alive with activity. The venue was chosen by The Works organizers due to its spacious qualities, and a centralized location. The Works has previously had a strong year in 2018 in terms of artworks and has been a staple since its debut in 1986.
The Works: Activated! was a labour of love for volunteers and artists alike, with the COVID-19 pandemic creating unique challenges for organizers. There were fewer artworks in the main location to allow social distancing and online resources to allow for more access. There were also concerns about opening so close to expanded vaccination rollout for the province.
Amber Rooke, who has been manager of The Works since 2012, said that in each iteration of annual event, the abstract and engagement have been a focus in their main venues, and this year is no different.
“As organizers, we were attempting to plan something earlier on […] it takes time to plan something that would be able to happen even under tight restrictions and that really responds to the needs of a community coming hopefully out of a pandemic,” Rooke said. ”The call was really to artworks that [are] physically able to manage an outdoor open exhibition space. Specifically, the active portion of it … [is] what activated refers to — activating space in that way.”
Why does Rooke, along with other organizers, feel strongly about opening the event this year, so close to changing regulations regarding vaccinations and public space? The Works: Activated! wants to showcase work that inspires energy after a long period of isolation, and invites the public back into public spaces.
“We want to also remain flexible and responsive to the needs of the public and what is healthy and good to be doing at this time,” she said.
“So it’s really important that we were active this year and that we produce something because we need artists making art. That’s something that we need as a society and that’s something that The Works is here to help support.”
The immersive collection of art on display continues to embody this theme, encouraging participants to consider their own personal relation to space as we begin to emerge from the pandemic.
“We have a range of works… that offer a little bit of an intimate experience. For example, Taryn Walker’s [piece] Since We Can’t Dance Together, is a greenhouse,” Rooke described. “You can’t really see or touch the pieces inside and what we have in there is a number of plants as well as beautiful drawings of fingers and insects, dancing around in a certain way with the wind and the light inside there.”
“Now, this interaction is happening and it’s beautiful and it’s organic, but it’s also just out of reach. Most of the work that we have right now is looking at what is normal, and sort of [normal] — it takes just a little bit of a step away from what is.”
Taking a look at Since We Can’t Dance Together from the artist’s perspective, Taryn Walker focused on the structure of this multi-media sculpture and its embodiment of intimacy, healing in companionship, and social isolation.
Walker is a queer, Indigenous artist of Salish ancestry. She said that her work presents a joyous and meaningful conversation about the end to the pandemic.
“With the pandemic, I feel like there is kind of this need of collective process, greed, kind of hold ourselves, tenderly, that kind of leads for our community,” Walker commented.
“A kind of collective feeling like we’re moving — [growing] out of a period of [COVID-19 related] trauma, so I feel… we’re moving on about this darker time [to times of] joy, of boldness and playfulness, maybe even humour,” she said. “I feel like that is reflected in my installation but also all the other artists’ [pieces] as well.”
Art has an important place in managing crises. Rooke and Walker both discussed the healing properties art provides.
“Art also has a really important societal role in communicating and concretizing ideas and feelings,” Rooke said. “That is something that we all really need right now. We need to, in some ways, look to the artists to describe our experience and to give you words or shape to what it is that we are feeling and experiencing and that will help to process it.”
What Rooke would like the general public to take away from the event is to consider it a precursor to events returning after concerns over COVID-19 subside.
“We look forward to a more active festival experience in 2022. Certainly, we recognize that there are some possibilities that will continue to have some health restrictions going forward,” Rooke said. “I’m very hopeful that we’ll be able to produce an event with many sites, and really have a chance to gather and celebrate with the community.”
Exhibit explores use of art to cope with mental illness – St. Albert TODAY
Kimberly Smith creates wall art with fused glass exploring nature and our relationship to it. Instead, Cynthia Carson, a severe brain injury survivor, infuses her personality into pieces constructed from leather.
Smith’s fused glass of natural scenery comes across as elegant, serene, and peaceful yet at the same time very sturdy — much like the artist. Carson’s work instead is bold and sassy, a reflection of the artist’s larger-than-life personality.
Interestingly, both women are bound by mental illness and adopted art as a positive mechanism to cope with life. Their contrasting works, which oddly complement each other, are currently on exhibit at Visual Arts Studio Association as part of Divergent Properties, which runs until Saturday, Aug. 27.
Upon stepping into VASA’s entrance, one immediately comes face-to-face with Carson’s three-piece showcase of two black and white leopards and one tiger titled Strength Within.
“We as humans don’t recognize our own strength — not necessarily physically, but mentally and emotionally. It’s about finding the strength you did not know was there,” said Carson.
The Edmonton artist began her journey crafting visual art as a significant and symbolic step towards working through trauma. The German-born artist moved to the United Kingdom for work and later travelled to South America before moving to Canada.
Once living in Canada, she suffered a crippling and traumatic brain injury that left her unable to control her body. Spending time in rehabilitation, she had to re-learn basic physical movements such as walking and spreading jam on toast. At times Carson felt as if she had fallen through the cracks, but stubbornly refused to give up.
“Once we were visiting my brother-in-law’s apartment and I saw a piece of Native art made of leather, and I thought it was interesting. My husband’s family is Métis and they taught me to make moccasins. We had a lot of leather at home, and I started cutting it up in five-minute increments because I couldn’t concentrate any longer. For me it wasn’t about creating art. It was about improving my motor skills, my concentration, my endurance, and overall rehabilitation,” said Carson.
One of her creations is a stunning, blue peacock that looks as if it’s about to jump out of the frame. It is modeled after peacocks living in the wild that are nearly extinct.
“It has a vulnerable beauty. It’s a rendering that life is precious. We have this illusion we are in control, but that is not always true. It’s about the fragility that life can be gone in a second. I’ve put it in a distressed frame because life is imperfect.”
Another series is of ballet dancers standing on pointe in graceful dance positions.
“The ballet shows mean to me that I couldn’t dance, but I could dance inside.”
Carson has also come under the microscope from individuals who cannot see her injuries and are prone to judge.
“You don’t see the challenges of brain injuries because you can’t see anything. But it’s about the perceptions people have of others — the visible and judgmental. It’s all about assumptions.”
Most importantly, Carson sees herself as a brain injury advocate and hopes her art spreads awareness.
Kimberly Smith creates kiln-fired glass art that evolves through form, colour, and materials. She uses nature themes borrowed from across Alberta. While her winter landscapes exude an aura of quiet peace, her bold-coloured Mama Bear projects the animal’s volatile emotions.
“Mama Bear is an example of slab glass. I use chunks of glass and rebuild from broken pieces. I choose what I keep and what I discard and build something new,” Smith said.
She uses three techniques — paper glass, enamel on glass, and slab glass, which can be fired to temperatures up to 1,500 F. She creates art in layers, some light and airy, others dark or muted. Some even sparkle with unexpected colours. No one layer stands on its own. All the layers must be added to see the beauty that emerges from within.
“I was 10 when I saw a glassblower at NAIT and thought it was the coolest thing I ever saw. I’ve done paintings — acrylics and watercolours — but it wasn’t until 16 years ago that I found out a kiln could do both pottery and glass. From that moment on it devoured me. Glass is my home,” said Smith.
There’s something about the way light passes through the medium or is reflected that keeps the St. Albert artist intrigued and energized in attempting new challenges.
“It’s only when we pull all the parts of the self together that we become whole.”
The exhibit is free. VASA is located at 25 Sir Winston Churchill Ave. The studio is open Tuesday through Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Colborne art gallery celebrates 25 years of creativity success in the Northumberland community – Northumberland News
University of Exeter at heart of rock art discoveries – BBC
Archaeologists at the University of Exeter are at the heart of a global event to showcase ancient rock art.
The Painted Forest event in Colombia will show works thought to be from the first humans to enter the Amazon.
The discoveries have been unearthed by Lastjourney, a Colombian-English research collaboration, in which the university has taken a central role.
The symposium will bring international experts together with representatives of indigenous peoples and artists.
Prof José Iriarte from the University of Exeter said: “What we have discovered here in Colombia is an incredible insight into one of the most momentous demographic dispersals of our species into the diverse environments of north west South America.”
Prof Iriarte said the rock art showed “a fascinating glimpse into the earliest artistic expressions of humans around the world”.
The artwork documents the arrival of the first humans in the north-western Amazon area almost 13,000 years ago, and the impact they had upon the landscape.
It will be on display in the Colombian city of San Jose de Guaviare, where delegates at the five-day symposium from 29 August to 2 September will sample rock painting and indigenous cooking and visit famous rock art sites of Cerro Azul, Raudal and Nuevo Tolima.
Project leaders from Lastjourney – which include the National University of Colombia, the University of Antioquia and the University of Exeter – will present a new bilingual (English/Spanish) guidebook for a layman’s audience, also titled The Painted Forest.
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