The magic of art found in between the trees

January 25, 2017

Another of the many stories about artists that I have done:

Gulf Islands Driftwood — Penders Edition
Wednesday, September 6, 2000
The magic of art found in between the trees
by Tanya Lester

“Sometimes saying nothing is better than saying anything at all,” is the poetic thought artist Wendy Dunnett composed under her clay mask named Speak No Evil.

The mask, with no lower jaw or mouth, was one of Dunnett’s many pieces that adorned the trees last weekend at Between the Trees, an outdoor art extravaganza on artist Joe Coffey’s property across from the Nu-To-Yu.

Sometimes it is difficult to find a way to sum up the versatility y exprand innovative creativity expressed in a show as good at Between the Trees.

“I want one of everything,” one viewer enthused.

Perhaps the queen of versatility among the eight artists who contributed to the show is Celeste Varley.

Picture, if you will, wolves done in acrylic pastel colours including lots of yellow shades with brown, blues, aqua-greens and purples.

Then there were Varley’s paint on recycled wood and driftwood. Her wolf head wearing false teeth is enough to deliciously frighten any Little Red Riding Hood.

The Dancing Crone piece seems to be inspired by the same book of fairy tales.

On the other end of Varley’s creative spectrum is delicate “Potential”, a watercolour piece featuring fragile white eggs.

This artist, who has been working full-time with her creativity for two decades now, even fashions lotus leaves into her work. Her range seems infinite.

Judith Gurr’smp amazing little animals sat proudly on tree stumps here and there between the trees. This is magical work that brings out a childlike amazement in the viewer.

How wonderful it was to discover it on a Sunday walk through the woods.

Richard Nicholson’s miniature wood villages, like Gurr’s, worked well in the forested setting. It would not have been surprising to see the Borrowerss or other little storybook characters emerge from the windows or doors of these little — seemingly harbourside– places.

Nicholson’s use of driftwood , crab claws, spy and sparkling costume jewellery and other found objects is combined to entice the child in everyone to explore his places for quite some time.

They reminded me of a restaurant at the base of a huge redwood tree that I once saw in northern California. This is an example of the power of the tiny detailed art that Nicholson does.

Gillian Peterson’s bold and easy style in her acrylic paintings is another thing altogether.

The luscious big roly-poly woman sipping wine in her Classics and Beyond was just one instance of how Peterson’s paintings have the feel of being larger than life.

There is an aura of humour here that spills over into titles like Quarter to Eight, Where’s My Date?

Dunnett sometimes seems to use humour in her clay masks but mostly the impression is that spirit shines through strongly in these pieces that she says she shapes rather than sculpts.

Several of the masks have facial expressions that look like the characters are awakening to a higher wisdom. It reminds the viewer of people opening their eyes to view a larger picture of life after they engage in deep meditation.

“Our life is like a slowly burning fire,” Dunnett wrote under Burning Embers. “Every once in a while the flame burns a little bit higher and a little bit hotter.”

Pat Kieffer’s watercolours are cool and concise scenes either of Penders places or places that could be found here.

They are pieces that easily draw the viewer almost right into the picture.

They make one want to be in the settings.

Kieffer is a true master of the sense of place just as Coffey seems to be the king of going back to the past in his portraits of domestic animals.

The subjects will surely be around in the future (it is hoped) but this artistic use of graphite and charcoal gives an old-fashioned yet post-modern feel to the subjects.

His frames are works of art in themselves. They ooze of antiques.

Kevin Oke’s photographs are beautiful in their surprise.

The surprise is that nature can look like an incredibly well-done drawing or painting.

The beauty of reality and how for an instant, here and there, clarity is absolute. This is what Oke’s work tell the viewer’s senses.

“Gourd shows up in the spring but doesn’t show his true colours until fall,” wrote Dunnett under her mask honouring the bulbous vegetable.

Between the Trees was a wonderfully mellow celebration of fall’s coming. I’ll take two of everything.

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