Visual artist Sa Boothroyd found inspiration in a rather unlikely place – the Sears catalogue.
“I was in Baffin Island for a month, working in a print shop, and the people there lived for the Sears catalogue. Everything kind of revolved around this bible,” Boothroyd explains about a half-hour before her latest show, Fowl Play, opened at Baked Café in Whitehorse earlier this month.
“I’ve been interested in catalogues since then and so what I did was a series of 20 paintings, and I just took catalogue pictures and I built a painting around it.”
Whimsical, multicoloured animal characters gallivant in Boothroyd’s small-scale works that incorporate a selection of frying pans, potatoes and pots from the kitchen section of the “Sears Bible”.
And the jest of the paintings continues with titles such as Chicken With A Fridge For Sale, which depicts a peculiar-looking poultry showing off an appliance clipped straight from the catalogue.
For over a decade, the B.C.-based artist dedicated her artistic efforts to the printmaking medium. She developed a playful style of characters with knobby knees and humorous cartoon-like expressions made up of squiggly lines and shapes.
But after the toxic printing environment took its toll, Boothroyd felt the need to move beyond it.
“I just needed a new challenge,” she explains of her choice to take up painting.
“I had become … I don’t want to say ‘too good at it’, but it was becoming too easy and people were expecting certain things from me. I needed to push myself because it wasn’t edgy anymore for me.”
While she had done a number of watercolour commissioned pieces over the years, painting was a relatively new platform for Boothroyd. Therefore, like most newcomers, she experimented a bit to find her footing.
The works in Fowl Play are oil and acrylic (and sometimes collage) on wood. But instead of using the wood’s natural surface, Boothroyd covers it with a thick, textured layer of plaster.
“I took a couple of courses just in different techniques and stuff like that. And I am very bad at drawing perspectives, so I had to get around that,” she says glancing up at a piece on the wall beside her.
“Part of the way to get around that was texture and that’s why I use the plaster.”
Boothroyd admits she’s sort of re-invented her printmaking into painting. By carving into the textured surface and still focusing on whimsical characters and content, she says she hasn’t altered her style too much.
“I always work from my imagination and I start with an idea,” she says. “I saw a card about four months ago with a whole bunch of chickens in the kitchen. So I had this idea of chaos and I wanted to use chickens.”
As the exhibition’s name suggests, chickens tend to take centre stage in these works. However, they aren’t ordinary fowl – one has an orange body and green wings accompanied by a blue tail and black-and-white striped feet and legs, while another flaunts a polka-dotted exterior.
Dogs, foxes, cats and birds are also featured and the titles of the works are incorporated through a collage of tiny letters at the base of each image. Boothroyd also adds a touch of family history to some of the pieces with the addition of stamps from her father’s extensive collection.
While Boothroyd currently lives in Gibsons, B.C., she has a couple of connections to the Yukon: her sister Wendy lives here, and her partner grew up in the territory. Furthermore, some of Boothroyd’s early print works were once sold at the now defunct, No Pop Sandwich Shop.
And although she makes it up here at least once a year for a visit, Fowl Play marks Boothroyd’s first opportunity to take the trip to show off her paintings.
Sa Boothroyd’s show, Fowl Play, is on display at Baked Café until June 5. For more information about the artist, head over to www.saboothroyd.com.