Artrepreneur: A Visual Feast … and Then Some

Arts Underground was packed on Nov. 20. Not only was the Yukon Art Society Christmas show opening, but Yukon Women in Music was holding a fundraising auction there, the same night.

Local artists and businesses had decorated birdhouses. Northerm Windows adorned a birdhouse with glass mosaic and frosted mirrored walls. Kim Beggs’ surreal and whimsical paint job included a bird whose second, larger eye surrounded the birdhouse hole.

Yukon Premier Dennis Fentie made a rare appearance at an arts event as the auctioneer. He did a good job, his low-pitched voice picking up excitement as the last birdhouse attracted bids of over $350.

YWIM musicians played music and the crowd nibbled and hobnobbed.

A performance art piece, later in the evening, went mainly unnoticed except by a few bemused patrons. A figure in stuffed coveralls, with a rubber alien lizard face, cruised around the gallery on a mission to find art as Kathy Craig sang Willin’.

He finally seized upon an impasto acrylic abstract by Jack Coyne (the only one of his three pieces in the show that didn’t have a red dot on it yet) and fled the gallery without paying.

However, the piece was observed back on the wall shortly thereafter.

So what else was on the walls?

Artists contributed to the themed group show, A Visual Feast, interpreting the theme in the widest possible way.

A whole family contributed work for this show.

Neil Graham’s Romance #4, painted in brightly coloured acrylic, depicts a couple on a couch. However, there are patterns in the sky and earth, tying inside and outside together. A woman dressed in yellow is lying with her head in a bald man’s lap as the man gazes fondly down at her. A tree’s visible roots grow into a vase. You can see the fish in the river flowing by.

It’s a painting you can feast your eyes on.

His wife, Edwige Graham, contributed one-of-a-kind bags. Her red satin purse shimmers elegantly with green and she’s made beaded necklaces with individual gift bags.

His daughter Ayla Graham created a troupe of wire dancers embellished with cloth, buttons and feathers. Their feet are matchsticks, which add to the sense of action and movement. Each is individually named.

And, finally, Gentianne Graham, the youngest artist in the show (not past her early teens), created a soft-edged, felted Christmas tree with buttons, as well as a group of felted miniatures in wooden frames. The strawberry was my favourite.

Outside that family, Davy Joly, who has been offering digital-image workshops for Arts Underground, is showing two framed digital photographs.

His print of an eagle taking off from a pine tree is fun to see. Its extended legs and wings make a human shape, evoking a sense of identifying with the eagle. Its yellow eye catches yours and every feather is sharp. It’s a great shot.

Mary Beattie contributed a wide range of work. A cool cat is a wall-mounted sculpture with felted head, legs and arms attached to a wooden board. More traditionally, her oil painting of a cache with a dog uses pointillist-styled brushwork, quite effectively, to catch the movement and the snowy, dusky quality of winter light.

Karen Rhebergen’s family scene, To us it was music, evokes the togetherness of a feast as they all sing together.

Lyn Fabio has framed a Forest Nymph Pouch of her signature hog-gut construction. Tendrilly tundra-like trim sets off the translucent material. It’s mounted on green Japanese paper. Tiny green beads down the front reward close observation.

Marlene Collins exhibits smoke-fired vessels. Whispers intrigued me. It stands about one foot in height. Through a dark, ragged gash down the front you can see it’s full of small, white clam-shaped, thin-walled vessels, two or three inches across. The profound shadow inside contrasts with their pale fragility.

In a new use of materials, Judy Matechuk is adding trees of coiled wire to her fabric or paper assemblages.

A caribou calf lies deep into the plinth in gallery curator Sandra Storey’s Bear Up Little Calf, reminiscent of snow, evoking concern for the animal.

I was abashed to find I was the only one who took the theme so literally as to contribute food-themed art. I installed a selection of dress paintings from my 100 Dresses projects across the country, all of which took food or drink as their inspiration.

Don’t blame me if many of the pieces listed here are not there when you get down to Arts Underground: it’s a pre-Christmas show, so pieces will likely leave in anticipation of that event. With any luck, more pieces will take their place as the show continues until Jan. 6.

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