Presenting a Juried Emerging Artists Exhibition
Wayfinding: Identity and the Kootenays
Exhibition Dates: June 7 – July 7, 2018
Opening Reception: Thursday June 7, 7-9pm
Artist Talk: Saturday June 9th, 12pm
Gallery Hours: Wednesday – Saturday 1-5pm
Annika Dixon-Reusz, Danan Lake, Spencer Legebokoff, Eija Loponen-Stephenson, Lydia Miller, and Vance Wright. Honourable Mentions: Bethany Pardoe and PCSS’s ‘The Socks Project’.
In this professional, juried exhibition featuring emerging Kootenay artists, youth respond to the theme of Wayfinding: Identity and the Kootenays through textile work, photography, installation, sculpture, painting and video.
Wayfinding can be defined as the ways in which people (and animals) orient themselves in physical spaceand navigate from place to place. It is a cognitive, social and embodied process of locating self in the context of surroundings, tracing a route to and from a given place. Wayfinding: Identity and the Kootenays examines how this process of locating oneself shapes six young Kootenay artists, many of whom have left to pursue studies elsewhere but trace much of their artistic inspiration to their strong identification with the Kootenay region.
Questions the exhibition considers include: How do you locate yourself as a young Kootenay artist, geographically, politically, historically or otherwise? How does living in or originating from the Kootenay region influence your art practice? If you were to build or draw a map of your personal relationship to this region, how would that look, feel, and be read?
Danan Lake, born in Argenta, explores his relationship to home through a sculptural installation that investigates the landline, a symbol or rural isolation and community reliance. Taking up outdoor recreation, Annika Dixon-Reusz of Rossland manipulates mountain bike tires into an elaborate textile art garment, while SpencerLegebokoff of the Slocan Valley photographs rural and urban skateboarding as a means of exploring and shaping his surroundings. Ymir’s Eija Loponen-Stephenson’s two delicate rice paper dresses speak to the duality of a rural and urban identity, while Nelson-based indigenous artist Vance Wright’s embroideries take up mapping as a way of engaging with queer politics and decolonization. Finally, Kootenay-based Lydia Miller explores her connection to the region and nature at large through delicate sculptural works made with local, found materials.
Honourable mentions include Nelson-based highschool student Bathany Pardoe, who’s adept paintings take up regional subject matter, and The Socks Project, a group project exploring wayfinding by a senior art class at Creston’s Prince Charles Secondary Secondary School.
Annika Dixon-Reusz was born and raised in Rossland, BC a small town in the Kootenays. She only left the Kootenays recently to go to school in Vancouver to pursue her love for art and design at Emily Carr University. However, she returns home regularly for holidays and summer vacation for some mountain air and family time. Growing up in the Kootenays Annika learned to ski and bike at a young age and recognises what it means to belong to a strong community. Being raised in the Kootenays Annika learned about the importance of community and surrounding oneself with loving, motivated people. Rossland’s mountains, lakes and trees, ground her, and tug her to always return home.
Danan Lake was raised in the Lardeau Valley, at the north end of Kootenay Lake, where his family has lived for several generations, living in the forest and making their living from working in the forestry industry. Lake’supbringing in a rural community is a major part of his artistic identity and has been a focus of his work since attending NSCAD University in Halifax, where he works primarily in sculpture but extends into print, ceramics, and intermedia. Lake has been active in the artistic community, creating and exhibiting work since 2013. His work exists within the context of contemporary art and art history but is rooted in his rural upbringing.
Spencer Legebokoff was born and raised at the base of the Slocan Valley, nestled amongst the mountains, and grew up exploring the Slocan River and surrounding coniferous forests. He shares a deep connection with the landscape, being rooted in the natural landmarks from birth. Spencer spends his time exploring foreign cinema, running his late-night radio show “Lo-Fi Lounge” and skateboarding.
Eija Loponen-Stephenson is from Ymir BC and presently attends OCAD University where she studies sculpture and installation. Eija Loponen-Stephenson works predominantly in performance and textiles, while her sculptural work is firmly based in the process of performative fabrication. She is always asking how the labour put into domestic tasks considered to be women’s work can be dislodged from the patriarchal system of consumption where the mending and cleaning is continuously done and undone. Through performatively engaging in these tasks she seeks to gain autonomy within the roll of the domestic woman by creating products which are not usable in the arena of the home.
Lydia Miller was raised in the Kootenays, and appreciates the privilege of existing in such lush and accessible surroundings. After leaving the area to complete her BFA from ACAD University, she promptly returned home to the comfort of the mountains. Through her work she aims to pay respect and draw attention to the importance of balancing our coexistence with nature’s flora and fauna. The ethereal linear arrangements of Lydia Miller’s work illustrate her ties to the energies and environments that most influence her.
Vance Wright is an indigenous artist born and raised in the west Kootenay region. His artistic practice covers a wide range of methods and materials, focusing more on creating a consistent aesthetic through inter-disciplinary practices. As a result, his work jumps from painting, to pen and ink illustration and even to embroidery. During his studies at Selkirk College, Vance developed a keen interest in social politics, such as material culture, cultural & ethnic relations, queer politics and processes of reconciliation & decolonization, which he attempts to bring into his artistic practice in hopes of starting discussion and encouraging critical thought.
A Conversation with Emerging Artist Lydia Miller
We have had a busy week setting up for this event, and the opening is tonight! We interviewed emerging artist Lydia Miller to learn more about her work.
How did you become an artist?
High school was a struggle for me, I’m not a very academic person. I really enjoyed english and biology because of their artistic elements. I was going to graduate but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I found a flyer in my councilors office for the Alberta College of Art and Design. However, I ended up taking a year off to go travelling but when I came back I moved to Calgary and just applied on a whim. I handed my application in like five minutes before the deadline. I got in, which was super exciting because I couldn’t really think of anything else I wanted to do. It was tough, it was really hard in my first and second year. I’m from a town of 5,000 people, so arts education was super limited. There was only painting and clay classes. So I had a background painting but not at the contemporary level of an arts college. It was super intimidating for the first couple of years until I found fiber and it was smooth from there.
I have always been attracted to craft. I like the hands-on aspect of it. I like the idea of functional things being beautiful. You are enjoying it on every level instead of something beautiful that you just look at or something functional that you just use. When I was little I travelled a lot because my parents divorced, my sister and I would go and see my dad in England. I kept having flashbacks to places we travelled like Africa and England, where they had little museums or historical sites with weaving looms that you could try. My mom had lots of african textiles at home because they had lived there for awhile. I had memories of looking at those things and not really asking questions about them, just kind of processing them in my mind. I figure I have been manifesting this interest throughout my life, but it was never encouraged because I wasn’t introduced to fibre and textile art as a study. It wasn’t in my direct environment, it wasn’t taught in school. When I started weaving, I fell in love with the process. It was in my third and fourth year at college when I really started to connect with my professors and push myself with going in different directions. I was able to take what they taught me and manipulate it slightly. Basketry was something I kind of took on on my own. I was inspired by weaving, but weaving is pretty structured. You have a lot of control over it because you are working from a frame, whereas basket weaving gives the freedom to create organic 3D forms.
How has where you have lived influenced your work?
It was interesting just in that provincial shift, between BC and AB. We’re neighbours but our landscapes are so different. And of course, living small town life versus moving to a city was a whole different transition. I was happy to have school and friends but I was never really connected to it as a physical space. It was so flat and I felt really vulnerable out there. So I started to really miss the mountains in my third and fourth years. I always thought it was so ironic how everyone who lives in the southwest of Calgary prides themselves on their view of the mountains. You can see the rockies far in the distance. And then you still have to drive an hour to get to them and then you have to pay ninety dollars to get into the park. It’s all very strange to me but nature is set up that way there. I missed walking out my back door and just being able to leave everything else behind.
What does your process look like?
I’m very process based, which is another reason why I enjoy fiber. I like weaving and dyeing because it’s all about the process – it’s very time consuming. I like it too because I don’t really have to pre-plan for it. I’ll either choose a material that I want to work with, or I’ll get an idea of what I want to create, and I let it organically form from there. Basket weaving was kind of a forte for me because you can easily manipulate the basic techniques. It works well as a method of sculpting and you watch the materials work off of each other. You’re not using anything else to hold them; they’re just kind of supporting themselves. I think that’s a nice parallel with nature in general. Everything’s working together and it’s a balanced system. If something is misplaced or moved then it fails.
Where do you source your materials?
Creston is a good place for finding resources because lots of people hunt, which I respect to an extent. A lot of the people I know who hunt use the meat and most of the parts of the animal and are happy to share. Some of the antlers were from the fish and game conservation in Calgary where they confiscate them from people for having them illegally. They use the bodies and bones for educational purposes but they have so much of it that they agreed to donate them to me. I was super lucky. That’s where I got the huge moose. I also grow flowers in my garden and I spin yarn, and then dye that yarn with those flowers. There’s a lot of work that goes into it. It keeps me humble, too. I know I couldn’t have this practice if it wasn’t for these things that the earth has given me. We wouldn’t have cloth and clothing if we didn’t have sheep and plants. It’s nice to pay that respect back because I am taking it for my own use. Making art is a selfish thing. In using natural materials, I can reflect in my work that I am grateful for what I have. I want to share that too: bringing nature back indoors and reminding people that its there and it’s why we’re here.
How do you feel about the lack of conversation about the Indigenous community here?
I hate it. I had no idea until recently. My friend was studying the reconciliation in school and I was like “what is this?” We didn’t learn about that in school. You see in the textbooks these pencil drawings of native people shaking hands with these white men and they’re being nice and trading. What you don’t see is the rape and murder and theft. Why was that erased from our history? It’s not pleasant but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. It’s sad. I grew up in Creston and there’s a reserve there with a pretty strong native community, but because they’re impoverished – where we put them – they grow up in this stigma. And because we’re in a small town and not getting much exposure to the culture of the world – there is an imbalance to society. It’s a strange thing and youth are not exposed to it because the people who control the education and politics just want to keep it out. I work in childcare and I know in that community they’re really trying to weave that education back into it, which I appreciate. Doing drum circles with the kids and talking about medicine wheels and the colours and directions and what those mean to the Indigenous People. It’s nice to see that it is being reintroduced slowly. I don’t know what progress the public education system is making though.
Who are some people that inspire you as an artist?
My mom is very resourceful and very creative. My problem solving comes from her. Whenever I needed something done she found a way to do it. I was resistant to it growing up. I was always like “mom, its not on trend, everyone’s gonna know you made this yourself.” Now I understand that she took the important lessons from what our grandparents did in the war – things like living on rations and being able to be self sufficient. I’m glad she’s there, she’s totally my lifeline. She gets crisis calls all the time but she loves it. It’s also a lot of social media. Instagram is so great for diving in. You can tailor your feed. I follow Prue Stent. She uses fabric and drapes them over bodies in these really surreal landscapes. The fabrics are often wet on the bodies and its just a really beautiful esthetic. I am also very inspired by feminism. Women like Amandla Stenberg and Rihanna, obviously. The women who just know who they are and don’t give a f**k. All their instagrams are about empowering and supporting yourself and supporting the person next to you while being able to live your own life. Its started to help build my identity and made me a stronger person. Obviously I’m mad at myself that it took this long but – again – it’s a process and that’s just a common theme in my life.
Where can we see your work?
I have my drawings up at Found Salon right now. My drawings are female bodies integrated with flowers. I can’t escape incorporating nature into my work. Balance and feminism and beauty is in everything for me. My baskets are at Bella Flora, they’re really nicely placed. I like them more for display than for consumption.
I also teach children’s art classes twice a week in a studio at the Nelson Brewing Company building. I do a drop in preschool program Friday mornings and then an afterschool program monday afternoon. I am hoping to expand in September. I want to keep exposing children to a lot of different mediums and making sure that art is a process in their life. I feel like that’s such an important outlet. You go through a lot between the ages of 3 and 18. If my students don’t feel like they can talk to anyone about it, it’s nice to be able to put that into their process.
We would like to thank Lydia for her time and we look forward to having her work with us this month. Check out the links below to sign up for one of her classes or check out more of her work:
Written and edited by Nicola Rough