View from the gallery: Art gallery is a lively place

Penticton Art Gallery keeps conversation going about our history and is a place to exchange ideas

“I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like!”

Wise words. In fact, I always turn to Monty Python when searching for wisdom and John Cleese never disappoints.

It really is that simple, isn’t it?

The production of art reflects its makers; a specific time and place preserved through objects that tell a story. Our story, in fact. It is a fundamental human quality to create and it’s as old as time itself. Whether it’s a cave painting, a Renaissance fresco, or a piece of industrial design — the iconic KitchenAid mixer comes to mind — it is our history.

If art is what we like, then a museum is a place where we can meet and talk about it.

One of my ‘ah ha!’ moments while studying art history was seeing Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain for the first time. It’s a urinal. An ordinary object taken out of context and placed within the hallowed white walls of a museum. All of a sudden, it’s art — or is it? Let’s say, Mr. Duchamp liked to stir the pot. He was a rebel that challenged the notions of ‘high art.’ He certainly got the conversation started.

And here’s the thing: the museum is where we can have this conversation. A safe place to think, to argue, to learn and exchange points of views, to inspire and be inspired. A public space that belongs to all of us. A community of ideas and experience. A place where we write our own history.

For our inaugural View from the Gallery, we at the Penticton Art Gallery (PAG) – want to extend an invitation to keep the conversation going, and at the moment, this conversation is necessary as it is difficult. Our four current exhibitions explore the legacy and history of the residential school system, and act as a counterpoint to the Canada 150 celebrations.

Related: Penticton Art Gallery explores the First Nations Perspective

In the main gallery, there are two shows: Requiem for Our Children, by Jim Logan, one of the first artists to tackle the subject of residential schools; and Anamnesis, by Joseph Sanchez and Janice Tanton. Also on view, Velvet Indians, a collection of native portraits in pastel on velvet paper that raises complex issues of identity; and the artwork of Jerry Whitehead and the students of the Sen`Pok`Chin School in Oliver with works from the Inkameep Day School art collection.

The 40-foot mural outside the Penticton Art Gallery, painted by Joseph Sanchez, member of the Native Group of Seven, and Charlie Walker, emerging artist well known for her multi-disciplinary performance art, is a call for healing. After viewing the powerful exhibitions inside, the artists conceived the mural as a salve to calm and sooth. We are grateful to the Penticton Arts Council whose support made this mural possible.

The Penticton Art Gallery is further collaborating with Penticton Arts Council in the upcoming Arts Rising Festival. To kick off the event, join us Sept. 9 and 10 for Penticton En Plein Air where artists paint along the shores of Okanagan Lake, their works will be found on display and for sale in the gallery through to Sept. 24. And don’t miss the Tibetan Monks from Drepung Loseling Monastery who return to Penticton after 10 years: a full schedule of cultural events are planned from Sept. 13 to 17.

As you can see, the gallery is a lively place. I came across a great quote by Hadley Dyer: “Public spaces exist so everyone can use them. All you have to do is show up.”

I sure hope you do. See you at the Penticton Art Gallery.

Antonella De Michelis works at the education desk at the Penticton Art Gallery and provides this column exclusively to the Western News.

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