Give two artists from diverse backgrounds money for art supplies and living expenses. Add to that side-by-side studio space and a three-month deadline to produce enough material for a show and it becomes a recipe for creativity. Last week, the Burrard Arts Foundation (BAF) opened an exhibit showcasing the work of Charlene Vickers and Holly Schmidt, this year’s first two resident artists.
The work produced by the two women couldn’t look more different but explores similar themes of connections between land, nature, and environment. Vickers’ collection of paintings Chrysalis are abstract and wildly colourful. They were inspired by memories of a summer spent planting trees in her ancestral Anishinaabe territories near Thunder Bay, Ontario. Schmidt’s installation Quiescence, a group of papier-mâché sculptures of desert plants native to the New Mexican Plateau region, are true to life reproductions except for their absence of colour. Their beauty lies in their intricate shapes and shadows.
Vickers moved to Vancouver in 1990 to attend the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design, as it was then called. She says the residency provided her a clean slate, allowing her to create something entirely new. Working along side Schmidt and the organic shapes of the plants she was sculpting, influenced Vickers’ paintings which have recently been more geometric and pattern-based. “These are more open and gestural,” Vickers says.
Schmidt grew up in Lacombe, Alberta and moved to Vancouver to do a master’s degree at Emily Carr University of Art and Design. Her art is typically entwined with social activism and she discovered the desert plants while in New Mexico as part of an agricultural activism project. She initially coached a group of young people to craft papier-mâché plants to dress up a dusty dining room and enjoyed the experience so much she vowed to make some of her own some day. The BAF residency afforded her that opportunity and Schmidt says she enjoyed the experience of sharing space with another artist. “I really admire Charlene’s work and loved watching it develop.
Unrelated to the residency program, but also part of the show in a room next door is Painting a Room Blue, an installation by Alex Achtem who covered the walls and floor of a room with clear plastic cups filled with water. Some are left clear, while in others the water is dyed shades of blue depicting a year’s worth of weather information: blue for clear days, lighter blues for mixed sun and cloud, and white for cloud and rain.
This is the first show hosted by the Burrard Arts Foundation since it moved to its new location in October. BAF was founded by the Chan Family Foundation in 2013 to showcase both global and local artistic talent. The residency program assists local artists with professional development and is funded by the foundation and a city of Vancouver cultural grant. The move to a larger space allowed the residency program to expand and accept two resident artists at a time. Christian Chan says the program helps “support the breadth of talent in Vancouver that exists that doesn’t necessarily always have the right platform.” Artists chosen are typically early or mid-career with a need for studio space and a platform to show their work. “We want to make sure we represent the diversity of artists and practices, and this is also a major consideration within our selection process.”
The residency show runs until May 25 at Burrard Arts Foundation, 258 East First, Vancouver.
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