TENacity exhibit runs at Salt Spring Gallery

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A special exhibition at Salt Spring Gallery this month celebrates TENacity, a show that includes all the past and current members who have contributed to the co-operative venture as it heads into its 10th anniversary.

Any island business that achieves that type of longevity is worthy of congratulations, but one that can do so while relying on a disparate and ever-evolving group of members is particularly impressive.

The project started out as the Salt Spring Artists Gallery of Fine Art and opened its doors on McPhillips Avenue on Sept. 17, 2009. Founding members were Sheila Hoen, Samantha Sanderson, Jackie Breault-Spiess, Deirdre Tessman, Donna Horn, Carole James and Allan Sherman. Hoen was the main instigator of the project, having been involved in an artist-run cooperative in south-west Florida for eight years before coming to Salt Spring.

“What we want is not just to sell art but to be a community resource and support artists that don’t already have a profile,” Hoen told the Driftwood in 2009.

Hoen is now the last remaining member from the originating crew, but others have been involved for almost as many years, such as textile artist Ilse Leader — age 93 and still going strong — recycled glass artist Rachel Vadeboncoeur and beaded-jewellery maker Carol Newmeyer.

In recent years, painter/mixed-media artist Lisa Lipsett has played a strong role as the cooperative’s president. Susan Haigh, Paul Robert Bryans, Kuno Egger, Cinda Helm, Allison Brodie and Cheryl Long round out the current roster.

Speaking at Friday’s opening reception, past member and treasurer Leslie DeAthe described how the gallery had gone from being totally unknown to a recognized space that was able to attract ever more artists and buyers. She credited Lipsett with taking the gallery from being “that community co-op that was barely there, just kind of making it, to something that I think is awesome.”

“Honestly for me, the joy is in the community of the art sharing: the artists who are currently here doing their time at the desk, and then the alumni artists and the friends of the alumni artists, our friends and the people in the community. That’s what buoys us all up, and that’s what makes it super fun,” Lipsett said.

The TENacity show includes mini exhibitions and information panels on all the current members in the main room, plus a group exhibition that includes many of the group’s alumni in the back gallery. It’s a great way to get re-acquainted with the broad range of talents that have come through the space, adding their contributions to the collective along the way.

While some artists find their first gallery experience with the cooperative, others are longtime practitioners who find a happy home for their continuing explorations. Haigh, Bryans, Vadeboncoeur and Lipsett are among those who have come in with a strong personal style already developed; time at the gallery seems to have only sharpened their focus or refined their tools. By example, Leader’s past as a fashion designer has married well with more earthy island traditions. Hats and bags knitted in nubbly wool have an organic appeal and chic sensibility. A large-scale wall piece on display that employs felting further reveals how her sensitive eye unites with her hands to showcase nuanced colour relationships and delicious texture.

Others, like Egger, have built on their technical skills to take new risks (as seen in gloriously evolving finishing techniques for his fine ceramics). A self-portrait of Hoen in the back room reveals a classic palette for that artist, with contrasting shades of warm peach and cool purples. Her new pieces in the main room reveal an interesting new direction. Abstracted landscapes showcase remarkable reflected skies in still water, set off by sketchy, jagged lines representing forest forms. 

TENacity runs at the Salt Spring Gallery to Sept. 4.

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