When An Edmonton Art Gallery Turns Into A Lake: One of The Most Incredible Art Exhibits I've Ever Seen!

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

When the Peter Robertson Gallery described Canadian artist Steve Driscoll's show, And a Dark Wind Blows, to me as "a water installation that would reflect his paintings" and an unusual art exhibit, I wasn't sure what to expect. Maybe a few oversized tubs of water placed under the works? 

What I didn't expect was what I saw when I went to the preview — the entire gallery had been turned into a lake. 

Specifically, the floor of the gallery, and a few inches up the wall, had been lined with a heavy plastic that was then filled with water and dyed black. On top of this water, a wooden walkway, a dock, and huge rocks were placed to give viewers a way to enter, and walk through, the space. The walkway and dock were built so that they move slightly as you walk over them, causing ripples. The art, reflecting in the ripples, seems to move along the surface of the water. 

Visitors to the gallery must walk along a wooden walkway that leads to a dock

The works were all inspired by the night sky, and the show cumulated in a stunning three panelled painting of the aurora borealis, or northern lights (image below). Though the paintings are hung on the wall like they would be in any show, the viewer can not actually get close to the pieces in the same way that you could in a more typical space. Instead, you must stay on the walkway that guides you from work to work at a distance.

These Are Truly the Last Days by Steve Driscoll 

A Quick Guide To Contemporary Aboriginal Art

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

I recently wrote an article on contemporary Aboriginal art and artists for Canadian Cowboy Country Magazine, and the depth and variety of work that is available in this genre of art is incredible. 

I have been aware of, and wildly impressed by, the incredible talent of both historic and contemporary Aboriginal artists (see my piece on Alex Janvier here) for as long as I can remember, but what surprised me was some of the traditional techniques that are still employed to create art that even I had never heard of.

For example, did you know that incredibly intricate designs are made on birch bark by folding up this fragile material and then biting it? Or that traditional embroidery on clothing and moccasins was done with moose hair (not glass beads) using a technique called tufting

The tradition, work, and talent that went into creating historic pieces — and goes into new contemporary creations — are coveted, both by private collectors and museums all over the world. 

Living in Canada, I have had the privilege of having fairly easy access to this work all over the country. Work by the "Indian Group Of Seven" is showcased in art galleries regularly, there are totem poles in public spaces, and even fashion designers are using traditional colours and language in their clothing. 

My personal favourites are the stunning carvings, masks, and sculptures that are created by Haida artists from the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America. According to the Canadian Museum of History, "The decorations on the objects they created were statements of social identity, or reminders of rights and prerogatives bestowed on their ancestors by supernatural beings, or of lessons taught to them through mythic encounters with the animals, birds, fish or other beings whose likenesses were embodied in the crests passed down through generations."

Whether you prefer paintings, sculpture, prints, masks, clothing, or something completely different, you are sure to find an Aboriginal artist somewhere in North America that is creating a masterpiece guaranteed to take your breath away. 

Images from the top, left to right: Detail of "Sun Shines, Grass Grows, River Flows" by Alex Janvier ; "Spirit Being" by Jackson Beardy, 1978; contemporary Haida sculpture and masks from a gallery in Vancouver, BC; a historic Haida costume in The MET, New York City

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Artist Douglas Coupland Creates A 3D Portrait of Canadians

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

Artist Douglas Coupland

I recently had the opportunity to meet author and artist Douglas Coupland and participate in a huge art project that he is undertaking.

Coupland is often attributed with popularizing the term "Generation X", which was also the title of his first novel. He is a prolific writer, and on top of writing books, contributes to Vice regularly.

His visual art is bright, in-your-face, and is popular in Canada, America, and Europe. Vancouver, Canada is the home of a few of his sculptures, including the lego-like orca near the convention centre. 

The project that I had an opportunity to take part in is called 3DCanada: APortrait of Canadians in the 21st Century and, uses 3D printers to create portraits that will be used in a giant installation. 

Sitting for a 3D scan involves not moving for just over a minute while the rendering is created on screen.

Teaming up with the Canadian, Quebec City based brand, Simons, Coupland is travelling to Simons locations with 3D printers, and the technology required to scan Canadians and create 3D replicas of their portraits. 

According to the artist, he is hoping to get 2,000 3D printed busts that he will print out in large sizes, paint and then use in a massive art installation to be completed in the year 2019. He plans  on having the piece travel until it comes to rest in the Toronto-Bloor Street Simons store. 

When I spoke to Coupland, he told me that he is excited about how this piece will both preserve a moment in the subjects' lives, and give them the opportunity to look at themselves differently. He enjoys the idea of using cutting edge technology to explore the idea of what a group portrait is in the 21st century. 

The best part of the whole experience?

All participants will receive a small version of their 3D image to take home! 

7 Must-Visit Art Galleries Around The World

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

I was recently disappointed on a visit to an art gallery while travelling in Vancouver, BC. The admission was way more than the poorly lit, unimpressive exhibits and sparse displays were worth in my opinion. The gift shop was more interesting! 

When visiting big cities, it is easy to fall into the assumption that their art galleries are going to be impressive and well-worth spending an afternoon in, but as I have often discovered, this is not always the case.

But how do you know if a gallery is going to be good or not? This post is a good place to start!  

Here is my list of galleries that are well-worth your time, and money:

1. Art Gallery of Alberta (AGA)

The structure that houses the AGA — designed by the late architect Randall Stout — is as much a work of art as the art that it houses! It is a beautiful swirl of glass, steel and zinc that is inspired by both the Northern Lights and the curve of the North Saskatchewan River that runs through the heart of the city that it is located in (Edmonton, Canada).

The exhibits are always revolving and showcase art created in Alberta, Canada, and around the world, including visiting exhibits of works from top museums and galleries in Europe! It also contains an award-winning restaurant, and a cafe with an incredible view. 

2. The Tate Modern

This blocky, industrial looking building is located on the south side of the River Thames in London, England. It houses an incredible collection of works in it's permanent galleries that are FREE to visit, and don't disappoint!

There are always a few galleries that contain paid exhibits, and these are full of works by working artists, or travelling collections of famous ones. It has a lovely cafe overlooking the river, and a rooftop restaurant. 

3. The Hamburger Banhof

After a reconstruction by architect Josef Paul Kleihues, the Hamburger Bahnhof reopened in 1996 as the Hamburger Bahnhof: Museum für Gegenwart (Museum for Contemporary Art) — one of the first state museums in Berlin devoted to "living art." 

This beautiful gallery — my absolute favourite in Berlin, Germany — is now all skylights, white walls and polished wooden floors and is the home of an outstanding collection that focuses on art created since 1960. 

The central collection is from Berlin entrepreneur Dr Erich Marx, that includes work by Beuys, Rauschenberg, Lichtenstein and Warhol (whose iconic Mao has a permanent home here).

4. The Louvre

Located in the heart of Paris, France, the Louvre will not disappoint. BUT, you must step off the beaten path a little bit, and actually absorb what you are seeing rather than try to just cross the "must-see" items off your list.

First of all, take a moment to really absorb where you are! The gallery is housed in the former royal palace and the ceilings, views, and architecture are breathtaking! There are priceless treasures in the galleries (yes, more than just the Mona), so many that you could spend days and still not see them all!

There are restaurants and cafes located on site, but they are a bit pricy. (Check out my post: Tips For Visiting The Louvre).

5. The Musee d'Orsay

I could have stayed at the Musee d'Orsay in Paris, France for days. The Impressionist works in the collection are stunning, priceless and have a home in this former train station that is now full of natural light, high ceilings, and whitewashed walls.

Like most of my favourite galleries, the building is as interesting as the art, which says a lot because the art is stunning. You will find a vast collection of works by Monet, Pissarro, Degas, and other masters. 

6. Uffizi Gallery

Located near the river in the centre of Florence, Italy, this stunning gallery showcases the best of the Renaissance with sculpture, large-scale artworks, and fascinating sketches housed in a beautiful colonnaded building.

This is the home of Botticelli's famous, breathtaking pieces "The Birth of Venus" and "Primavera" (pictured). There are incredibly long lines to get into this gallery in the summer months, but it is well worth it. 

7. Picasso Museum

This museum/gallery was a total surprise to me, as I had no idea that Picasso had done anything more than the abstract works that we know him best for.

This museum showcases his early, figurative works that are full of colour and incredibly interesting. The building is historic with gorgeous courtyards and sets the tone for the fantastic art that is displayed within. You will find it in Barcelona, Spain. 

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Eight Photos Showcasing 90 Years Of Art In Alberta, Canada

by Lindsay Shapka in , ,

Numerous, 2013      Faye HeavyShield

The Art Gallery of Alberta is one of the oldest art galleries in Canada and celebrated its 90th birthday with the exhibit 90x90 featuring 90 pieces by 90 different Albertan artists created between 1924-2014. 

I was lucky enough to preview the exhibit and was completely blown away by the work on display.

The show was an eclectic mix of sculpture, installation pieces, painting, portraiture, and everything in between — an incredibly diverse showing of the fantastic creative talent that lives in Canada.

Here are a few shots of some of the synamic and diversepieces. 

Errol and Alice, 1983      John Brocke

Lubicon, 1988      Alex Janvier, R.C.A., C.M.

John Will, 1992-2009      John Will

Quilt, 1997      Shelly Ouellet

Large Pink Head #2, 1991      Chris Cran

Studies of Nature I, 1994/2014      Laura Vickerson

Camouflage Painting 1, 2002      Arlene Stamp, R.C.A.

Against All Odds: Artists Tarzan and Arab Creating Art on the Gaza Strip

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

If you think you've met a struggling artist before, think again.

Tarzan and Arab (real names Ahmed and Mohamed Abu Nasser) are 25-year-old twins who were born and raised in Gaza City where theatres don't exist (the last one was destroyed a year before they were born), and artistic expression (of ANY kind) is considered to be pornographic.

Despite the odds stacked against them (and thanks to their amazing father who was a former teacher), these twins make art and films anyway. Using whatever they can get their hands on — according to the curator of their international exhibit, they have used ketchup and crushed herbs to create pigments for their pieces — their work is vivid, colourful, dreamlike and presents a utopian version of Gaza rather than the violent, war-torn city that exists in reality. Despite the tight restrictions and horrors of war, the men love their home and consider it to be paradise (according to curator Kelty Pelechytik). 

Today you’re going to struggle, tomorrow you’re going to struggle, the next day you’re going to struggle, but eventually you won’t. It is art for art’s sake. If you do work that satisfies you, you don’t need anything else. It is all worth it for when you see someone in the street and they say. ‘Oh, I saw your movie.’ This keeps you going forward.
— Arab Abu Nasser

Their work has been shown in exhibitions around the world (New York, London, Dubai to name a few), and they have won awards and international recognition for their creations.

They have only been able to travel with their work a handful of times (mostly secretly), and in 2012 were forced to flee Gaza because their family was receiving death threats from fundamentalists who disapproved of their work. They now live as refugees in Jordan, without permission to travel, unable to see their family, yet still creating art.

In 2012 they were named among the 50 Most Influential People in the Middle East by Al-Monitor

I got to see their FIRST solo exhibition, This Is Our Land, at the Latitude 53 Gallery in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. All of the paintings displayed were for sale, priced from  $1100-$3000, and ALL proceeds went directly to the artists.

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Creative Personality: An Interview With Artist Malorie Shmyr

by Lindsay Shapka in ,

Malorie on set at my travel inspired photo shoot 

After just one visit to malorieshmyr.com  it is obvious that this talented creative director, fine artist and 3D modeler is something special.

The last couple of years have brought a world of success for this Edmonton, Alberta-based talent whose whimsical view of the world has been translated in movies, on the runway, on canvas, in print, and in photographs. I have had the honour of knowing Malorie for many years now and have had the pleasure of interviewing her to get some insight into the life and mind of a working artist. 

Obsessed with staying in the lines as a child, Malorie's professional career as an artist really started with the decision to attend the Academy of Art in San Francisco where she learned how to create 3D models for video games (a skill that she has also used to help develop 3D sets for movies as well).  

Though there was clearly money in this type of work, she soon realized that her true love was painting, drawing (see sketches from her notebooks below), and creative directing.

"I love the idea of using more than one medium to convey ideas," Malorie told me.  

The Anthrotorian (A): Where does your inspiration come from?
Malorie Shmyr (MS): It would be rare to have something not inspire me! It might be something a part of everyday life, or even just a feeling. I am also inspired by great artists like Klimt, Dali, Matisse, Toulouse-Lautrec, and the sketches of Michelangelo.

A: What do you hope to accomplish with your art?
MS: The technical training that I had gave me a need to please an audience with my art. It took me a long time to learn how to create for myself and not with other people in mind. My ultimate hope is to inspire. Even if I don't sell I piece if I inspire someone that's ok.  

A: How would you describe yourself in 3 words?
MS: Hmmm... inspired, imaginative, excited. 

Malorie painting in her sun-drenched studio

Malorie has directed and shot countless photo shoots for local designers, hairstylists, magazines (check out her digital publication Opalus Magazine), and friends (including me!).

I was lucky one warm Sunday afternoon to have Malorie shoot some beautiful photographs of me at her studio, and I envy the people that get to work with her on a professional level often.

She has never-ending energy, vision, and inspiration when on set that is absolutely contagious!

Here are a few images from our shoot together: 

Malorie's upcoming project is also the one that seems to be the closest to her heart. It is something that she has been actively been working on for a few years now, but seems to have been in the works for most of her life: 

"I used to be really self-conscious about my body. I cried a lot. Recently I saw pictures of myself at, what I considered to be, my worst and really reflected on what it was that I was so worried about. I realized that I wasted a lot of tears. I wished I could tell that girl, 'I wish you could see through my eyes how beautiful you are'."  

Sick of Photoshop, Hollywood, and other women making her feel bad about her body, she decided to take charge through her art. As part of her research for the project, she started talking to female family and friends about how they viewed themselves:  

"If I had known that all of the other girls were as self-conscious as me, it would have made growing up much easier." 

She selected a group of models for the project and had them each tell her what part of their body they were the most self-conscious about. Then using pen and ink, and acrylic on wooden canvases, she is creating a series of images that will represent the evolution from being trapped by your self-consciousness to being free from it. 

"When you first walk into the gallery... there is going to be a big wood panel covered in different colours of ink that will represent the self-consciousness. There will a mirror, so when you walk in you will see yourself in your outfit, your makeup. I know that a lot of girls, and me, look at what they are most self-conscious about first and then everything else. They will be reminded of their self-conscious before they even come into the exhibit. 

There will next be small wood panels with figures in black and white in swirls of colour in disturbing, sad poses. They are trapped inside their self-conscious. Restricted. They are not photo-realistic but exaggerated and distorted — how the models see it in their head.  

Next, these women will be standing in front of their self-consciousness (their colours) open, not covering their bodies, showing their body to us. In poses that are more confident. 

And then we will go to a large piece that will be many women together and they are all supporting each other, coming together, and not feeling self-conscious together. Being honest with each other to support each other better. It is going to be beautiful and really strong.  

And then, as you exit, there will be a wood board with a mirror mounted on it but with no colours, the self-consciousness is gone. I will then have the viewers of the exhibit write what they are self-conscious about on the board and once it has been written, it means that you are taking the first step to leave what you are self-conscious about behind you. My hope is then that people who come to the show and go out after will talk about what they wrote on the board and will start a dialogue about our worries and start supporting each other." 

When asked if she had ANYTHING else that she would want people to know about her, Malorie said this: 

My true goal is to inspire people. I love seeing people doing what they love and cannot imagine — I won’t — live any other way!