Ideas, Laughter, and Making Art

Armed with everything they need to make art, plus some delicious egg salad sandwiches, 12 Yukon artists left their lives behind and tucked themselves into the woods to make art together. 

Members of the Southern Lakes Artist Collective got together on three occasions, to do 3-day art-making marathons. They opened their minds to the techniques of their colleagues: paper making, working with clay, working with found objects, welding.

They say sparks flew, they were inspired, they laughed, and they worked together. They shared their rocks, driftwood, techniques, and creativity.

The results can be seen in the new art show, called Rocks Paper Scissors, showing at the Arts Underground in Whitehorse until Sept. 26.

Lawrie Crawford, a painter and member of the collective, observes that each of the artists in the collective are each accomplished in their area, with decades of training and refining their craft – but the three-day art sleepovers were a chance to play, new techniques and collaborate.

Donald (Watt), he’s a world champion snow carver,” Lawrie Crawford says. “And Helen O’Connor, she’s been invited to international conferences. Then Sandra Storey, she has been invited to ceramic workshops in Seoul, Korea.”

Crawford tells the story of meeting a woman in the United States who said she studied Sandra Storey’s art during her undergraduate degree.“Sometimes the Yukon doesn’t know what we have here,” she says. 

But the 3-day intensives got the artists out of the isolation of their studios, and had the effect of re-kindling the fire of creativity.

“It was kind of like art camp,” says Lawrie Crawford. “We’re serious artists who like to have fun. And it keeps the life in the art. 

“It’s an aliveness that’s essential for good art, because good art makes you tear up, or go ‘Ah-ha.’ To do that you need a spark within that gets transferred to the piece, to the other people who experience it.”

They spent three days working with clay and making molds at Sandra Storey’s cabin in Tagish Lake. They spent another three days there learning about making paper with Helen O’Connor. Then three days were spent working with driftwood, metal, and found objects and Paul and Jeanine Baker’s place in Crag Lake.

The artwork in the Rock Paper Scissors show got their spark of life at the collaborative art sessions, and the artists refined them over nine months.

Sculptor Sandra Storey, based in Tagish, collaborated on two dozen pieces of art in the process. She put a lot of time into an installation in the show that features 22 pod/slug-shaped things. She just got intrigued with the shape, and played with it. They are made with paper, clay, and glass.

There is no message at the heart of that installation. It was all about the process of making those slug-like pod thingeys. “It was all about play – it wasn’t to say anything – so it was really liberating as an artist,” Storey says. “

In her solo work, a message of hope for the environment comes through in one way or another. It’s a concern close to her heart.

But with her collaborations in this show, it was an opportunity to explore other media.

“It was a total release from my studio practice,” she says. “Just leaving my studio practice and go where I have no idea what is going to happen today. I was picking flowers and pulling them through paper pulp, and putting them in trees.” 

With all the ideas flying around, different techniques being explored, and artists floating in and out of each other’s projects, the group decided to show the work without attaching their names to the pieces. They were generated under the condition of creative sparks flying.

The Rock Paper Scissors show runs until Sept. 26 at Arts Underground, which is located at 305 Main Street. The gallery is open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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