It’s perhaps not surprising the latest show at the Penticton Art Gallery is, as curator Paul Crawford put it, “all over the place.”
Welcome / Home is a partnership between the Penticton Art Gallery and the South Okanagan Immigrant and Community Services, and reflects the complicated relationship immigrants have between the place they have left behind and the community in which they are working to settle into and make their new home.
Crawford had been thinking of a show along these lines, but it was a meeting with Nora Haft of SOICS that was the final trigger.
“I was also thinking locally as well, in terms of immigrants in the community and Nora came up to me with a project they were working on. The idea was about connecting local artists with recent immigrants and tell their story through visual art,” he said.
The gallery put out a call to artists living in the South Okanagan inviting them to meet with a recent immigrant with the goal of creating a work of art in partnership or individually, documenting the immigrant experience.
“The title, Welcome / Home is playing on that idea. This is your home, but also welcome, and recognizing home is someplace else as well,” said Crawford.
When he was planning the show, Crawford thought it would be a lot easier. But he found that in practice, it was a challenging experience for both artists and their participants.
“There are all sorts of other issues that I hadn’t thought of at the time,” he said. One challenge was language barriers, which he said SOICS was a great help in overcoming by arranging translators, but he also found that many immigrants didn’t want to draw attention to themselves, but just disappear into the fabric of the community.
“The dialogue that came out of it on both ends was kind of surprising to me,” said Crawford.
“Not all the stories are beautiful things,” he added. Some are just portraits, rather literal depictions, but others deal with the problems, even atrocities, the immigrant left behind.
“Some of the stuff is very forceful and hard hitting and some of the stuff is just a really nice depiction of this person in their new land, or their traditional dress”
One of the gentler works is that of Terezija Nad, who immigrated from Serbia about seven years ago. Her submission is a series of delicately carved and painted eggs, hearkening back to the Serbian family tradition of decorating eggs for Easter. But Nad’s creations, which she has been doing since 1999, go beyond simply painting the eggs.
“I changed colours, techniques, everything. I made something my own,” said Nad, who fell in love with the idea of the Welcome/Home exhibition when she heard about it.
“The first idea that came to my mind was to show how I have two homes in the world,” said Nad, holding up a butter-yellow egg decorated with images of homes on opposite sides.
“Because my homes are different, one in Serbia, one in Canada, I just wanted to show the difference. Because it is a different life, different story.”
Nad used a large goose egg as her canvas for the homes, intending the larger bright egg to dominate the other parts of her entry, a series of mostly white eggs, delicately carved into snowflake shapes with a Dremel tool.
While the first egg represents warmth and home, both here and in Serbia, the smaller ones are intended to evoke the idea of challenging situations.
“Snowflakes and winter and something cold, something you have to adjust yourself to, that is my challenge,” said Nad.
The official opening for Welcome / Home is on Saturday from 3 to 5 p.m. and Crawford has invited Richard Armstrong of the En’owkin Centre and the Penticton Indian Band to give an opening prayer and welcome, followed by Kym Gouchie with a musical presentation.
That will be followed in the evening with a world music dance celebration from 8 p.m. to midnight, featuring food from ethnic restaurants in the community and a concert from Barefoot Caravan.