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show & tell

By Michael Elcock, September 2013

While it involves a host of international talent, this opera is rooted firmly in Victoria.

If Marilyn Monroe were still with us, she would have turned 87 in June. Idolized, misunderstood and often misrepresented, she will be the subject of an opera that will have its world premiere in Victoria on September 13. Produced by Victoria-based Aventa—with a musical score by the well-known English (and new Canadian) composer Gavin Bryars, and libretto by Marilyn Bowering—the work has generated serious interest in New York, Australia and the United Kingdom.

By Aaren Madden, October 2012

Starting a conversation on eroticism in contemporary Kwakwaka’wakw art.

Cultural anthropologist Wilson Duff wrote in a 1976 essay, “sexual symbolism is so important in the arts of the world and elsewhere that I feel that its virtual absence on the surface of Northwest Coast art permits us to suspect that we might find it in metaphorical forms below the surface.”

In what may be a first-of-its kind exhibit, seven contemporary Kwakwaka’wakw artists have embraced the task of exploring eroticism in Northwest Coast art tradition. For the October show at Alcheringa Gallery—called Lusa’nala (The way we came into this world)—they have created thoughtful, sometimes playful, two and three-dimensional artworks on the theme.

By D.F. Bailey, February 2012

Both whimsical and provocative, Leonard Butt’s sculptures testify to a healthy imagination.

Learn to trust your imagination.” That’s the hard-won lesson Leonard Butt now imparts to his students and admirers.

It’s also the guiding principle that serves as his passport into the cosmos of his fantastic sculptures. A guest to his home studio—a north-facing, well-lit space framed on one side with floor-to-ceiling windows and a French door leading onto a lush garden—is confronted by statues of men and women locked in an exploration of their own worlds.

By Pete Rockwell, November 2011

Johnson’s sculptures combine art, irony and politics.

Jan Johnson spent the last 40 or so years welding the detritus found in resource-extracted landscapes into objects and tableaux that, in one way or another, called the received ideas we share about life and the world into question. He had a knack for identifying the delusions, pretensions, self importances, and lies that are the spectacle of contemporary life. After a brief battle with cancer, Jan Johnson died on September 29; he was 68.

By Linda Rogers, July 2011

Rande Cook, Hamatsa dancer and, at 34, the youngest hereditary chief in the Kwakwaka’wakw Nation, is showing his evolving commitment to formline painting and carving at the Alcheringa Gallery. 

Cook grew up in Alert Bay before heading to Victoria to attend Vic High. His grandfather Gus Matilpi introduced him to Kwakwaka’wakw design and the idea that through creating art Cook could help maintain and preserve his culture. Other early mentors include Willie Cook Jr, William Wasden Jr, and Beau Dick. 

Since January 2002, Cook has been exploring wood carving under John Livingston. He has also learned to bend traditional boxes from Bruce Alfred.

Though well-steeped in and adept at traditional designs, Cook is moving beyond the parameters of First Nations art forms that were threatened when the white-comers disapproved and misinterpreted their sacred art, to a more contemporary expression.

By Amanda Farrell-Low, May 2011

Ken Faulk’s painterly gaze is often drawn above the horizon.

Upon meeting Ken Faulks, one might not immediately peg him as a fine artist. The gregarious, down-to-earth man, who looks younger than his 40-odd years, seems more like the kind of guy who would be applying coats of paint to the side of a house as opposed to a canvas or piece of board. But Faulks is an accomplished Victoria artist who works in a wide variety of mediums, from digitally-crafted abstract works to hand-drawn illustrations to en plein air landscape paintings.

“It keeps me off the streets,” Faulks jokes. “It’s almost like a public service.”

Faulks only briefly flirted with the idea of living the blue-collar life. After graduating high school, he delivered for McGill & Orme Home Health Care and loaded trucks at Canadian Tire for a couple of years before deciding he wanted to do something different.

By Christine Clark, April 2011

Dave Barnes’ creations tickle our nostalgia glands. And you know where that leads...

During the long drive out into the deep dark woods of Sooke, I felt completely uncertain about who I would find when I arrived at the home studio of artist and illustrator Dave Barnes. We had never met, and in an email leading up to our visit, he wrote, “Would love to have you out…only thing is…we’ve got a colicky newborn, and I don’t have a cool/interesting separate studio, just…a room in our house…so it might not be worth the drive?” It seemed a bit enigmatic (or timid?), but the person who greeted me was thoughtful and friendly, if a bit reticent, and even a little excited, and he put the cookies I brought out on a plate and immediately offered me a cup of coffee. 

By Christine Clark, March 2011

She’s disciplined and ambitious, fiercely individualistic, and burns her “unsuccessful” paintings on a beach she named after herself.

As we sit at her kitchen table together, with a bag of salt and vinegar chips between us (snacks she bought in case I was hungry), Tara Juneau answers all of my questions about the validity of realism in painting with a steadiness of purpose and eye quite disconcerting and totally in discord with her age, her big hair and the domestic chaos of her kitchen. 

She is surprisingly young for such an accomplished painter, one who has won many awards at local art shows. The youngest painter ever represented by Morris Gallery, she’ll be participating in its 11th Anniversary Show in March.

By Mollie Kaye, February 2011

Danny Everett Stewart: seeing life’s intrinsic beauty.

It took love and death, according to artist Danny Everett Stewart, to extract him from Toronto’s big-city intensity. “I had two extremes, both pushing me.” His spouse Stephen had moved out here to Victoria, but Stewart was still reluctant. A few months later, he was robbed at gunpoint. Remembering that fateful day in 1994, he says, “I had four dollars on me—a two dollar bill in each pocket. They had the gun in my chest...I thought, ‘I’m dead, or I’m paralyzed.’ Everything had slowed down; not a car was going by, no one was around. Then, all of a sudden, everything sped up, cars went by, and [the assailants] were gone.”

By Mollie Kaye, December 2010

Performing on the street as a way to promote dialogue, connection and engagement.

On Tuesday, November 9, 2010, I became the Johnson Street Bridge. You could call it a retrofit of sorts. It wasn’t expensive, and didn’t involve any prolonged closures, but it was transformational in ways I didn’t foresee. I created a facebook account as “Johnson Street Bridge,” painted my face with makeup that I custom-tinted “Blue Bridge Blue,” strapped a replica of the Mayor onto my head, festooned myself with flashing signal lights, and hoisted a functioning bascule onto each shoulder. Then I hit the streets.

by Mollie Kaye, November 2010

Renowned potter Robin Hopper’s new glaze-paintings are just one reason to check out the Stinking Fish Studio Tour.

Firmly rooted in my “city life,” Metchosin seems like a long haul; it really isn’t that far, but I do sense I’m in another world when I arrive at ’Chosin Pottery, the home, gallery and studio of celebrated local ceramicists Robin Hopper and his wife Judi Dyelle. Turning up their circular drive, the mature trees towering over the quaint heritage house are charming enough, but it’s the 2.5-acre, Japanese-inspired garden out back that really steals the show. On this dreary autumn day, I savour the decay, the colours and forms that the vegetation takes as it decomposes. I’m in a philosophical mood. Nothing dies, I’m thinking. It just changes. It becomes pure, nourishing energy to feed new life.

by Mollie Kaye, October 2010

Chin Yuen helps us visualize energy on a human, and planetary, scale.

As soon as we hear, touch, or lay eyes on something, we’ve got a story about it; it’s unavoidable. This is the nature of our human experience, and also what makes art, in all its forms, so subjective. Before us is the text or image in its literal or physical “truth” (whatever that may be), but within us is the subtext and meaning, informed by our collective experience, based entirely on our minds’ and hearts’ interpretation—an infinite number of interpretations, because inevitably they change as we evolve, moment by moment.

by Mollie Kaye, September 2010

Can art and celebration generate more local appreciation of this world-famous landmark?

When I first met the Johnson Street Bridge seven years ago, I was a wide-eyed tourist gawking at the spectacular raising of the decks; a proud local explained the history and mechanism to me. The utilitarian romance of funky old things thrills me, and always has. As an art student, I wore an 80-year-old pocket-watch on a chain. When asked for the time, I would ceremonially produce the ancient thing and pop open the spring-loaded case. It was not simply a timepiece; it was a piece of time.

And so it is with the bridge. When it slowly rears up its decks to allow marine traffic to pass below, I get the same rush. When I drive over it, the vibration of the steel tickles our bums and my kids giggle and hum along. 

by Linda Rogers, August 2010

The inaugural Victoria Emerging Art Awards promises emerging artists a helping hand and the rest of us a good time.

I often wonder, given exponential population increases in the arts community and dwindling public resources, how hard it is for young voices to be heard over the din of established painters and writers. Performers like dancers and actors have a predictable shelf life, but not painters, musicians and writers who, unlike waged Canadians with pension plans, remain standing so long as they can remember where they put the tools of their trades.

Story by Brian Grison. Photo by Tony Bounsall. July 2010

When the Garry oak meadows of Langford were threatened, naturalist Fran Benton turned to art and politics.