General News · 20th August 2016
August 19 - 28. Lisa Gibbons, Donna Naven, Monika Beal, and Amy Robertson
Art Review by Rex Weyler
Photographs by Richard Truman
At the exhibition opening on Friday evening, a visitor to the Old Schoolhouse Gallery in Whaletown, BC, Cortes Island, first confronted “The Moment When Worlds Meet,” a collaborative installation, by the four artists. A fabric vessel appears to sail over a rocky-bottom sea. Four wild, feminine figures stand behind the sweeping gunwales and meet the eyes of the visitor. One is instantaneously carried away on the vision of these extraordinary artists.
The show title, Vesica, represents the almond shape that arises from the intersection of two circles, the centre of each resting on the perimeter of the other, a shape that appears in world art history, sometimes associated with nature goddesses or a doorway to other worlds. The vessel emerges as a motif in this show, the practical vessel, the vessel between worlds, the body as a vessel of spirit. Where worlds meet, creation begins.
Stone carver Donna Naven, born in London, Ontario, moved to Cortes Island in 1993, drawn by a permaculture course at Linnaea. She received a dremel as a gift, and intended to make jewelry, but began practicing on local stone. Magically, figures began to emerge, and fourteen years later, Naven is a gifted, savvy sculptor. Her work simultaneously addresses modern aesthetics, while echoing ancient neolithic imagery. The pieces in this show feature jade, granite, basalt, marble, coral, snow flake porphyry, and serpentine; revealing goddesses, animals, vessels, birds, masks, and combinations of forms. The work carries the simplicity of ancient carvings, with a hint of playfulness so that the beholder senses something alive in each piece.
I felt particularly drawn to the Jade Goddess, the Black Goddess in basalt, and to the Three Bears in white Yule Creek Marble from western Colorado. Some years ago, Cortes artist Doug Weyler, climbed the narrow trail — passages 24-inches wide, along a sheer cliff — to the famous Yule Creek marble quarry, which provided pure, white marble for the Lincoln memorial and other famous US buildings. Later, a friend from Colorado brought Doug a piece of the while, pure calcite marble, which Doug gave to Donna, and from which the Three Bears emerged.
Monika Beal is Acadian, born in Halifax, Nova Scotia. She moved to Cortes Island in 2007. When her eldest daughter, Marie Soleil was young, Beal decided to make her a doll. “I wanted my daughter’s first doll to be real,” she says, so she researched doll-making history, an inquiry that has grown into an artistic passion. Her work — featuring fabrics, fibre, handmade paper, feathers, egg shells, flower petals, opal, turquoise, and beads — previously appeared at the Old Schoolhouse Gallery in 2014, and 2015.
“Ovum,” created with these natural elements and gold paint, appears at first as simple and elegant. Close inspection, however, reveals an exquisite work of detail, delicacy, and power. “Hiboux” (Mother Owl with Owlets), combines wool and cotton fibres with feathers, kyanite, beads, seeds, and bark; evoking the tender and powerful guardian mother. “Paons Dorés" (Golden Peacocks), a hanging piece with wide-eyed figures, evokes the awe of life in all creatures.
Amy Robertson, born Fort Wayne, Indiana, moved to Cortes Island in 1989 to put her children in Linnaea school, where she took her first weaving class with Alastair Heseltine. In 2000, Robertson received a gift of cedar bark from Cortes Island sculptor Volker Steigman, and began weaving cedar on her dock overlooking Gunflint Lake. She met Haida traditional basket maker Marlene Liddle, and studied with her in Massett, on Haida Gwaii, where she returns annually. Her work appeared in last year’s Old Schoolhouse Gallery members’ show.
Robertson’s work in this show employs red and yellow cedar, sometimes accented with sedge grass, turquoise, and bone. The work merges hand-skill and usefulness with aesthetic art. “Viking Basket,” holds power and frailty together. Her woven vessels, with practical purpose — “Libations” and “Vesica” — include sacred geometry and ancient symbolism, woven with the cedar.
Lisa Gibbons’ work is well known on Cortes Island and beyond. She grew up at Refuge Cove on Redonda Island. She moved to Cortes with her family in 1985, and attended Emily Carr University of Art and Design, in Vancouver. Gibbons’ art flows from the shapes, colours, objects, and feelings of the rainforest wilderness. She often depicts animals that appear as messengers, not only from wild places, but from another time. She is inspired by Russian icon painting, in which shape and colour serve as doorways into another world, another time, a deeper knowing.
“On The Edge Of Grace,” “Wind of My Soul,” and “As Above, So Below,” employing deer, owl, and raven, act as such portals, opening the observer into worlds that appears almost familiar, yet mysterious and alluring. “The End Is Where We Start From” transforms a found, weathered board into a window that suggests gazing into space, air, and water.
The show transcends the four individual styles and techniques to become a collective statement, a vision of the world that appears to connect the past with the present, the mundane with the sacred, and the human with the wild, more-than-human world. This show would stun audiences anywhere in the world, in Berlin or Tokyo as much as on Cortes Island, where these artists live. We are fortunate that they choose to work and create here in this community.
Below is the click to view slide show link with 24 pictures of the show. Click on a thumbnail, then on the word “next” to see them all big
The gallery is open 9-6pm on Fridays and 2-6pm on Saturday and Sunday. On Friday, August 26, two of the artists will give an evening talk and presentation, beginning at 7:00. The show closes August 28.
La Mere des Anges, Monkia Beal
The Offering, with Night Owl, Donna Naven
Wind of My Soul, Lisa Gibbons
Viking Basket, Vesica 1, Where Sun Meets Shade, Amy Robertson
Comment by Nancy Beach on 21st August 2016
The Hydro Power was out today,
Aug. 21, but the Light Blessing was apparent at the art show at the moment when the worlds met anyway! Thank you all!
another wonderful exhibition !
Comment by norberto rodriguez on 21st August 2016
Donna, Lisa, Monika, Amy, what a combination of wonderful artists. Great collective and individual works.
Congratulations and thank you, for our art. Every single piece is beautiful. In particular, I really liked Texada's Children by Donna; Amy's basket with a blue jar (photo # 20); Lisa's piece in photo # 7; and Monika's Mother of Angels. And The Moment when Worlds Meet is simply stunning.
Thanks to Rex for his excellent review and to Richard for his photos. I felt I was there...
missing you all,