The Penticton Art Gallery opened its latest exhibits on Friday, Jan. 24. The three different exhibitions will be open to the public until March 15.
In the main gallery, the artists of the Penticton Indian Band’s En’owkin Centre had the centre stage with their Messages from the tmxwula?xw and the sqəlxwcawt Renewed.
The art on display is a mix of students and their teachers from the En’owkin Centre’s National Aboriginal Professional Artist Training program. This year’s exhibition features eight first-year students and nine second-year students, alongside some selected pieces from their teachers, alumni and one invited artist, many of who are having the first public showing of their works.
“For a lot of our students it’s the first time. It is the first experience they have in being able to showcase their work in a contemporary art gallery that is a public art gallery with more well-known national shows,” said Michelle Jack, one of the professors at the En’owkin Centre.
“It’s a huge opportunity to them that opens their eyes to what is available in the greater contemporary art world, and how it works to showcase those things and what goes into the curatorial process.”
The students at the En’owkin Centre come not only from the Penticton Indian Band and the other bands in the Okanagan, but from other First Nations and wide.
“We have a lot of people from across Canada who come to the En’owkin Centre to study and do the NAPAT, ” said Jack.
“There used to be a lot more aboriginal centres like ours. We’re not federally funded, we have to do grants and all of those things to make our programs run. Because of that a lot of secondary institutions like En’owkin in other parts of the country have had to close their doors.”
The artists at the En’owkin Centre work in a wide variety of styles and mediums, from painting using traditional pigments to sculpture and more modern forms of art such as photography.
“Last year we had a piece and everyone was saying, ‘Oh, that’s a really traditional pattern,’ and [Joe Feddersen] was, that’s ‘Parking Lot A,’” said Jack.
“It was the parking lot pattern painting, how they paint the spaces, and he made a pattern of that for his basket. So he’s thinking of modern ways and what we see as would be patterns and petroglyphs, and that’s just one example of the mesh of the traditional and contemporary.”
Walking through the front door of the gallery, the first thing that will first catch your eye will most likely be the small prints lining the main hall. These pieces are the pages from local publisher Theytus Books’ printing of Zoe and the Fawn, a children’s book written by local Indigenous author Catherine Jameson, and illustrated by Julie Flett.
Jameson is herself an alum of the En’owkin Centre, with her book being a product of her time there.
“One of our projects was to interview a six-year-old, and my niece at the time, Zoe, was six. This story was the one she told me, with some creative changes,” said Jameson at the talk on Saturday.
The story in Zoe and the Fawn follows young Zoe and her father, as they go outside to take care of a newborn fowl, and see a lonely fawn outside. As they look for the fawn’s mother, they find many other animals along the way.
The words in the Syilx language are emphasized with the colour of Zoe’s boots, along with the English translation to help readers learn as they read along.
Copies of the book are also available at the gallery’s shop.
The third exhibition currently on display in the Project Room gallery features the works of two very different artists, with Scott Price’s found material sculptures of rusted metal, stone and wood a sharp contrast to Corinne Thiessen’s at-times grotesque paintings of once-human figures.
Price does not approach his work with an eye for a single meaning, but rather lets the pieces speak for themselves.
“I don’t know what I’m looking for,” said Price during the artists’ talks on Jan. 25. “If the ball in [the Project Room] talks to you of big or small, of the microscopic or the cosmic. If by having the void in it, that talks to you of breaking down or building him. All those things speak to me. Whether I’m looking for those fascinating things in nature and including them in my art, I can’t answer that question.”
Thiessen and Price were selected as part of the Penticton Art Gallery’s 13th year of collaboration with Island Mountain Arts and the Toni Onley Artist Project to highlight a Canadian artist. This year, the decision was so close between the two, that they were both selected to showcase their works.
The three exhibits at the Penticton Art Gallery are on display until March 15. The gallery is also hosting the third annual Loving Mugs chili-cook off fundraiser on Feb. 20.
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