Tuesday, September 26, 2023
September 26, 2023

First exhibition in Archipelago series opens Friday at Mahon Hall


For Archipelago

Two days out from the opening of Salt Spring Arts’ 16th Annual Spring Art Show at Mahon Hall, executive director Yael Wand and co-curators Richard Steel and Patrick McCallum adjust final details to the new international visual arts exhibition Archipelago: Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea.

The exhibition, framed as “twelve artists, six mediums, three exhibitions, two countries, one sea,” is a collaboration between the creators and communities of the Southern Gulf Islands and the San Juan Islands, two of North America’s most feted art communities. The partnering organizations and venues are Salt Spring Arts, ArtSpring and the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, each hosting different elements of the exhibition.

Salt Spring Arts displays the works of six artists from the Southern Gulf Islands April 14-30, while ArtSpring features six artists from the San Juans April 22-May 24 (opening on the evening of April 21), with a 10-day overlap with Mahon Hall. The San Juan Islands Museum of Art opens its exhibition Sept. 22, where curator Peter Lane will welcome the Canadian artists.

“What is so interesting about our cross-border group of twelve is, even with several of the local Gulf Island artists, they have shown and are known across the country, but haven’t often shown on Salt Spring, if at all,” says Steel. “That artists who could work anywhere in North America yet choose to live and work in the Salish Sea is fascinating to explore and a wonderful opportunity for the community.”

Visitors to Mahon Hall will see the work of established Salt Spring installation artist Anna Gustafson, textile artist Jane Kidd and painter John Macdonald, along with newer artists like Salt Spring born-and-raised photographer Sam Montalbetti and Coast Salish carving artist Temoseng Chazz Elliott. Pender Island’s fabric artist Joanna Rogers rounds out the B.C. contingent.

Detail from The Fog Warning by Anna Gustafson, one of the pieces in the Southern Gulf Islands segment of Archipelago: Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea.

How the unique sense of place in the Pacific Northwest affects the artists’ work, perspectives and values will be front and centre in the conversation. A theme shared by many of the local artists are bold and beautifully crafted statements on the natural world, including the vulnerability of our environment.

The youngest artist in the group, Elliott intertwines the knowledge of both his mother, a blanket weaver and his noted artist father along with the ways of Coast Salish art and W̱SÁNEĆ teachings. His art focuses on the history, stories, legends and knowledge of his peoples.

“My form of art was born and bred directly from these lands, waters, plants, and animals over thousands of years of our people studying this territory,” says Elliott. “We developed this style of art like a language; it’s a form of documentation and a means to express a message.”

Montalbetti, who now lives in Montreal studying photography at Concordia, is interested in exploring the medium’s technical sleight-of-hand to elicit emotion and change perceptions. In his current work, instead of focusing on the larger sculptural forms of water, he dives into the Salish Sea to capture tiny particles and backscatter. The light and lens produce an optical phenomenon revealing eerie orb-like shapes.

“While they have a cosmic look to them, the pictures are from a smaller world lying outside of human perception, revealed to us by photographic optics, water and light,” he says. “I see my work as a form of psychedelic magic.”

Meanwhile, accomplished artist Macdonald is known for his large-scale, lush, colourful approach to painting scenes from his natural environment and personal experience. From sunbathers at the lake to firefighters in the forest, his endeavour is to create social situations, involving the viewer as the silent third party, caught in the act of looking.

Macdonald has been collected and exhibited nationally and internationally for over two decades with paintings at External Affairs in Ottawa, Toronto Dominion Bank and The Grand Pacific Hotel.

John Macdonald oil on board painting and mixed media piece titled Pause (Canadian version), part of the Archipelago exhibition at Mahon Hall.

For other artists, it is less about representational expressions of the coastal environment but rather submitting an ideological sensibility about it, namely human impact on the natural world and concerns for its preservation — be that climate change, pollution, garbage and threats to wildlife.

A Governor General’s Award-winning artist who has exhibited in solo outings and over 60 group exhibitions across Canada, the United States, Japan, Poland and Australia, Kidd is renowned for infusing meaning through her masterful textiles and tapestries. Her tapestries in Archipelago are from two ongoing series: “Inheritance” and “nothing is indifferent to us.”

“I see this current work as a warning of environmental disaster. A call to pay attention and recognize our complicity in environment carelessness,” Kidd affirms. “I also offer the opportunity to celebrate the skill and value of the handmade object, encouraging the viewer to look closely and pay attention; actions that have a parallel value in our relationship with the world around us.”

Her fabrics are complex stories of pattern and colour inspired by objects like rusty metal, industrial garbage, beach refuse or small natural phenomena like mold, lichens, shell middens and moss.

Born to an Italian/Guatemalan mother and Swedish father, installation artist Gustafson uses common objects to explore the intersection between the natural world, human behaviour and technology. Showing since 1974, she is known for her limited palette and restricted vocabulary of natural materials and found objects.

“For the past eight years I have been enshrouding discarded small appliances and single-use plastic containers in linen, just as we once prepared our dead for burial,” she says.

Gustafson believes we best remember information and events through our senses and associated emotions. With a strong sensory component, her work aims to be a catalyst for deep emotion and conversation.

Another artist who incorporates found objects into her work, fabric artist Rogers unveils a new series entitled “What Once Was (The Apocalypse is Now.)” Working with six new shift dresses as well as copes and armour that were started 25 years ago, which she loves to keep embellishing, she is drawn to traditional surface design techniques such as hand dying, shibori, hand weaving and sensory connections between fabric and its maker.

With its opening reception on April 14, Wand of Salt Spring Arts is also excited about the additional events and programming that will support the Archipelago theme.

“We’ve aimed to embrace the magic that happens when different creative disciplines come together,” she says. “Whether the focus is music, literature, film, even the ecology of the region, the Spring Art Show aims to ignite collaboration and community engagement all in one space.”

With a Salish Sea authors panel, a film screening and panel about the Salt Spring Seals swimming group, a poetry and music event, artist talks by exhibiting Gulf Islands artists and a curation panel, Salt Springers will have many opportunities to participate.

See saltspringarts.com for more on Mahon Hall exhibitions and events for Archipelago.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Other stories you might like

Archipelago artworks head south 

By SALT SPRING ARTS Salt Spring Arts is taking the final installment of Archipelago — Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea across the border...

Saturday use of ArtSpring parking lot appreciated

Some island visitors braving the busy summertime Salt Spring Saturday Market crowds recently have found a small miracle: a great place to park.  “Five Saturdays...

Lederman and Sullivan merge in 2020 Vision Exhibit

Salt Spring Island will witness a unique collaboration between renowned abstract expressionist Jeff Lederman and poet Margaret Sullivan at the 2020 Vision Exhibition at...

Anticipation builds for Photosynthesis exhibition

BY DIANA HAYES FOR PHOTOSYNTHESIS Photosynthesis is mounting its annual fine art photography show at ArtSpring from Wednesday, Aug. 23 through Monday, Sept. 4, with an...


Salt Spring Island
scattered clouds
9.3 ° C
11.9 °
6.8 °
98 %
40 %
12 °
12 °
11 °
12 °
12 °