Artrepreneur: Cowboys and Immigrants

Three shows will open at the Yukon Arts Centre Public Gallery Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. They range from video installation to painting process to an installation of cowboy kitsch.

Ho Tam’s Confessions of a Salesman explore the Victoria resident’s cultural and sexual identity. Tam is a gay immigrant to Canada from Hong Kong.

Mary Bradshaw, gallery curator, described the show to me: “He starts off the video saying, ‘If you’re born in Hong Kong, you can’t imagine growing up to be anything other than a salesman.'”

The 55-minute video runs in a loop. It’s an environment to walk in and out of rather than a narrative, sit-down film.

The video includes clips from Tam’s return visit to Hong Kong as well as excerpts from Hong Kong movies. In Bradshaw’s favourite bit of video, a series of “black and white headshots of salesmen of all sorts, pictures you could imagine from their business cards, fade into each other.”

Tam will attend the opening and give an artist talk on Sept. 5 at noon with Emma Barr.

Whitehorse’s Emma Barr is painting landscapes in her studio as I write this. She will work up to Aug. 28, riding the last-minute wave of energy she likes to use before her shows.

In this show, entitled Love Affair, she will exhibit not only her paintings but also the sketches leading up to them, her paint palettes and colour charts.

Barr’s landscapes start with drawing. She travels to a place that interests her. In this show, sources include Kluane, Kusuwa and the Dempster. She looks for compositions in the landscape that move her. She then sketches these on 8.5 x 11″ paper, often in Sharpie marker.

These graphic lines form the root of her painting compositions. She takes them back to her studio and works the paintings up from these along with notes and photographs.

In this process she finds herself frustrated. “I can’t really picture what I’d seen.” Consequently, she finds her work becoming “feeling-based”. Instead of painting what she sees, she’s painting what she remembers of what she felt while seeing it, focusing on mood and movement.

The paintings are mostly an acrylic underpainting with oil over top, though there’s one that’s “just plain acrylic”.

Barr will include her colour chart since she finds she’s using colours she’s never painted with before — “I used to paint mostly in primaries” — and now she’s broadening her palette to include different hues and greys.

Her used palettes will also be included in the show.

Finally, Andrew Hunter will be in Whitehorse the last week of August installing Giddy-Up. Bradshaw tells me he plans to “jam-pack” the Gallery 2 space with 163 individual items of cowboy kitsch. These pieces include “tiny figurines, chairs, tables and lamps, silk screens, toy guns, pulp fiction books, posters, all cowboy-inspired.” They came from museum collections, personal collections and stuff he’s found on eBay.

His artist statement will direct the audience to little square books, which give a narrative context to the piece.

In these books, viewers can read about a little boy “who desperately dreams of being a cowboy” and his admiration of an old man who does everything he can to emulate a cowboy. The old man wears cowboy clothing, fills his house with cowboy kitsch like in the show, but has never been west of Thunder Bay.

“It’s about the dream or fantasy of the west rather than the experience of it.”

These three shows open the same night as Joseph Tisiga‘s Indigenous Incisions. They continue until Oct. 26.

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