Wily, wonderful ArtSpring display shows art created by local women

October 9, 2016

Salt Spring Island is one of those plays where it seems every second person is an artist.

I really enjoyed ‘helping them out’ by being an art model for some individual artists but mostly for the half dozen life drawing groups by being an art model for most of the 16 years I lived there.

Currently, I am reading a very well written novel with intriguing characters by Roisin Meaney that I picked up from a “take a book, leave a book” library at the Tourist Information office in the Hazeltons, BC where I was recently house sitting in northern B.C.

The book is titled Life Drawing for Beginners and I am pleased to say that it debunks the myths about life drawing models being loose women who take their clothes off to pose for artists because they are nymphomaniacs. The women and men who do this part-time work are encouraged to be of all shapes, sizes and ages by artists who know that sketching body shapes is an ongoing ‘tune-up’ for those who want to keep their skills sharp or even sharpen them.

One day an artist who had worked in Disney studios asked me when I was going to begin to do visual art myself. I was stunned at the question because I had never thought of myself as an artist. But wouldn’t you know: after I stopped doing art modelling when I moved off the island, I began sketching the beautiful scenery I encounter as a traveller and the animals I adore as a house sitter.

Whenever I went to art shows on Salt Spring, what I saw picked me up and excited me. This was perhaps even more so when it was a group showing because of the variety hung on the walls of ArtSpring or Art Craft or wherever the art was mounted.

I remember that elation I felt when I viewed the following art show that I reviewed in the following piece:

Gulf Islands Driftwood

Wednesday, March 8, 2000

Wily, wonderful ArtSpring display shows art created by local women

by Tanya Lester

New York City in the early part of the last century is a long way in time, place and size from Salt Spring, but it is what women in that city at that time did on March 8 (today), which inspired an art show running at ArtSpring all this week.

Called Celebration of Women in the Year 2000, the show is part of the island’s International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations kicked off by island musicians and poets at ArtSpring last Sunday.

IWD looks back on a march led by women who worked in New York sweatshops. While they paraded down the streets of the city, they sang the famous folk song, Bread and Roses. The song was a metaphor for the women’s desire to not only earn their daily bread but to include beauty in their lives.

Today, women are still making bread and they are also creating other beauty, which is the extraordinary thing about the art show that opened last Sunday and features the work of over 40 island women.

A few in the show, including Diana Dean, whose self-portrait greets you immediately upon entering the gallery, are professional artists. Others, though, would hesitate to name art as their “career”`

Some of the pieces give the feeling that the creator has hurriedly left them unfinished to turn back to children, get ready for work or cook supper.

They are there as tributes to another side of these women’s lives: one that sometimes rises above daily bread-making. The hand-written labelling next to the pieces (no typed white rectangles here) also add to the feeling that finding time to create art is not easy for women.

The expression can be painful as well. Deboraph T. Gainer’s Anguished Heart is an example of this with what looks like green and blue blood running over a huge heart in red while, in black, some of the words on the canvas read: “You come near and warm yourself/My blood had left my heart/at this fire it gets hot.”

Feelings are often confusing, as is transformation, which is represented with snakes and butterflies and other flying things that look like hieroglyphics in Gainer’s To Dance the Myth of the Red Skirt.

Sometimes it is overwhelming as Devon Guest’s collage suggests. Entitled Leata’s Landscape, it seems more like getting inside a mindscape with conflicting images and magazine phrases such as “butting out for good,” “By the Book,” “The soul, The body” and “Don’t Crack.”

In the middle of this colourful confusion and not far from Christina Estable’s huge batik honouring the breast-feeding side of woman are Judy Weeden’s proper porcelain pots.

To create the black and gray with the ghost-like white, Weeden’s written explanation describes the process as being Saggar fired with fine sawdust packed into the porcelain before it is put into the kiln.

Several pieces are done on recycled wood. Rommy Verlaan’s Emerald Peaks and Birds Eye View are stumps transformed into mountains, forests and the water, with two kayaks and a shack nearby.

Rebecca Smith’s Harvest/water rat is a true-to-life acrylic painting of a boat called “water rat in dry dock.”

Colours abound especially in pieces like Laurie Steffler’s Tree Ali. What beauty to see, as with an ultrasound, the fetus within the green woman tree who drops seeds from her hand to the ground. The ground is nurtured with the milk flowing from the blue woman water’s breast.

Kim Christie’s Hope, showing a woman butterfly rising as her cocoon unravels, forms one side of the portal while another of her pieces featuring a woman and pink water lilies marks the other side of the open gallery divider.

Through it one can see the most extravagant piece in the entire show. It is Amara Gabriel’s The Green Goddess, done in three panels. It is a wild, wild one with the goddess holding a baby in her belly, while dolphins spring through the air along with the hummingbird, fish and eagle.

Gabriel’s acrylic The Wild Women of Catface is very intriguing as it shows the animal in the female gender.

Throughout the show, woman are shown ass women often are — with sagging breasts and bellies. Shari White does it in acrylic on wood.

Sazjo Stone does it in her marvelous plaster bust of a pregnant woman’s torso. Then, she takes everything a universal step further in her piece in which she shows the earth being birthed through, of course, the thighs of a woman

Neither does the show forget women’s sense of humour with Glenda Peterson’s Of Two Minds showing the beauty of not being able to make up one’s mind in the two beautiful bright birds with the big cartoon-like eyes. Lydia Doucette’s choice of the title Summer Sneezes, in which dandelions are going to seed in a nice array of pastel colours on a sunny-yellow background, also brings a smile to the lips.

And on and on and on. There is too much wonderful art here to mention every piece but it is a wily wonderful diplay of the feminine side of island art.

Go more than once. Go whether you are feminie or masculine or a nice mixture of both. It is exciting to see art in all its stages and hues, from beginning to professional/

The art show runs until Saturday…This is thanks to co-organizer Victoria Leslie, whose coordination energy seems comparable to Diana, Goddess of the Hunt, and Saltspring Women Opposed to Violence and Abuse (SWOVA), which is the show’s sponsor.


Tanya is a writer, a psychic specializing in tea leaf reading and tarot, a reiki master, an art model and a house sitter. For more information on her and the services she has to offer go to her web at teareading.wordpress.com or her pages on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Google. Her email address is tealeaf.56@gmail.com  Her cell phone number is 250-538-0086.





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