Lake Country Cloth Culture

I popped in briefly to my local art gallery tonight. Even though I spent a year working in Kelowna’s largest art gallery, there were only a few faces I recognized at this smaller event. To me, this is one of the best features of the art world. It’s a small community. Except when it’s not.

I attended tonight out of curiosity to see how a smaller, local gallery handles an opening, and I was impressed. It appeared to me that they solicited a decent turnout, and they offered an array of finger food that easily equalled the selections at my former gallery. I had a nice chat with gallery manager, Petrina, who remembered that I had left my former job and asked me about my current life — full-time writer for two more weeks then back to part-time writer, part-time employee collecting paychecks. I thought it was classy that she would ask after me even when she was hosting an opening. She made me immediately glad I had decided to come.

The exhibit that opened is called Cloth Culture, and features, “Six contemporary artists [who] explore the tactic emotional and experiential resonance achieved through the active labor of material production and bodily awareness.” Reading the invitation to the event over Facebook, I gathered that the exhibits would feature cloth in some fashion (pun intended). I wanted to see for myself how the artists would handle their medium in order to achieve their message.

Even though my visit was brief, I came away intrigued. Creativity always has that effect on my brain. The exhibits were varied, some binding garments fashioned into bolts of cloth together in imitation of various recognizable objects, others more abstract in intention.

My personal favourite was the simplicity of the long suspended swath of fabric (linen, possibly?) which had been painted in bold strokes with fluid black smears of paint then draped from ceiling to floor along one wall. I also appreciated the weave of wool, as well as the crinkled design of ribbon and bow-embellished paper. That one had so much texture and variance built into its construction that I had to study it in detail for several minutes before getting any sense of what I was observing. For instance, I first missed the chocolate liquors which had been inserted into the pattern of the work. I also took awhile to see the ivory sewing pins fastening the art to the preserved tree branch from which it hung.

I’ve spent my week anchored to my computer screen building word counts and story scenarios and character complications. I am rushing towards the completion of the fourth novel I’ve written this year, which leaves me well within range of drafting five novels in this twelve month period. It also leaves me with brain bleed, and a serious need for a break, for a change of venue, for a refresh button so I might cement the last two scenes I have yet to write for this novel. This is another reason I popped into Lake Country Art Gallery tonight.

What I got for my trouble was a sausage roll hors d’oeuvre, a brief but pleasant reconnection with real human beings I am not related to and have not crafted from the recesses of my mind, and best of all, sparks for my imagination.

I don’t know if I left the gallery thinking about the relationship of working with cloth to attain body awareness. That was there, but for me, that was a background note. Instead, I left thinking about the impressive way some people have of taking simple, basic materials and re-imagining them into art objects which make a statement. I left thinking about the way art has of creating differing impressions on the psyches of each individual who views them, and about the beauty of transmitting meaning and inspiration in such a fluid fashion. I left thinking about how art works in simplicity and intricate detail with equal power.

Hanging in the window at the gallery is a large cloth hand. From inside the gallery, this was simply suspended fabric which mimicked the flimsy material of a woman’s glove. From the other side, though, when the light from the gallery shone through the material, a shadow world could be seen. Inside the glove was a world of intricate detail which I won’t describe — I’ll leave that for you to discover on your own.

After studying those shadows, I left. I’m a writer, not an artist, and when I feel inspired, words are my medium of expression. When I slipped out the door, though, I left reminded that in order to really see, you have to take time to truly look. A surface, cursory glance is only stage one in the experiences of life, and of art.

I recommend a visit to Lake Country Art Gallery and Cloth Culture. There you will find shadows under cloth, fluidity of pattern and space, the intricacies of design, and if you take the time, maybe you, like me, will find a moment of contemplative inspiration.

 Lake Country Art Gallery is located at 10356A Bottom Wood Lake Road. Cloth Culture can be viewed until November 17, 2019.

The Longer You Spend The More You Appreciate: Herman H Levy at Kelowna Art Gallery

KAG

The first week that I worked at the Kelowna Art Gallery, I walked the gallery in giddy awe that my life had put me in this beautiful spot. Every day I got to wander the gallery and admire art work I’d only previously seen in Art History text books. I certainly never expected to see works by Monet, Van Gogh, Pissarro, Rubens, Degas, and other masters in my home town of Kelowna, BC, population 127,400. I gravitated that first week to the landscape by Jean Victor Bertin. Large and displayed prominently, this painting, which was in every art history book I had ever touched, compelled me. If I didn’t have an actual job to do, I could have stood in front of it and memorized the painting’s play of light and shadows for hours.

The second week that I worked at the Kelowna Art Gallery, my parents came from Vernon to support my new job, and see the art work I kept extolling. My mother, who is the organized glue which keeps our family of artists running, walked diagonally from one end of the gallery to the other twice, meeting me in the middle both times, then settled herself in front of Harold Gilman’s Portrait of an African American, and was promptly moved to tears. I understood. The anger and pride and humiliation and fear battling in the features of the model spoke to me, too. My father, himself a landscape oil painter, traversed the entire collection slowly, gazing with detail at the paintings he most enjoyed then leading me over to the Bertin and conveying his appreciation for the work. Apparently, I thought, the apple did not fall far from the tree in our family. My parents had picked out two of my favourites.

Except, by the end of week two, I would discover the passion in the rocks and waves of Roderick O’Connor’s Red Rocks and Foam. His technique reminded me of a lesson from University Art Class, where the name of the game was get your arm flowing freely. Somewhere, I have a painting from that class whose impassioned brush strokes rival O’Connor’s. On the opposite end of the spectrum, during week two I would fall slightly in love with the evocative warmth of Henri Le Sidaner’s The House in the Morning. If, I thought to myself, I could own only one of these paintings, The House in the Morning is the one I would want.

In week two, you see, I started to understand the urge to posses. These amazing works hanging on the museum walls stir the type of reverence which has grown adults whispering in their presence. The collection is on loan to Kelowna for a limited time. Eventually, we will have to give them up. I am asked by patrons on a daily basis, which is your favourite, if you could own one, which would it be? By the end of week two I had my answer narrowed down to a list of six, no eight, maybe ten, of the works.

By week three, I had noticed the disproportionate nature of the garden planters in the Le Sidaner painting, and had become arrested by the eyes of Maximilian III, by Peter Paul Rubens. What is that expression on his face? I would ponder, unable to properly identify the look in the man’s eyes. If I stood back far enough, the Archduke looked imperiously annoyed and dangerous. Three feet in front and to the center, he looked hopelessly sad, but directly in front of the portrait and slightly to the left, and the long ago Austrian with the warm brown eyes and beautiful long eyelashes looked — intelligent. Intelligent, is not an emotion, I chided myself. So what is the expression on the man’s face? With the slight churl of his upper lip, the man could have been irritated, or, I supposed, he could have been born with a trace of a cleft palate. I didn’t know which, but I wanted to learn. At some point,  I promised myself,  I will research this man, I will learn who he was and what he accomplished.

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