In Pictures: The first art exhibitions of the year; and boy, are they good!

By David F. Rooney

All of the art exhibitions at the Visual Arts Centre are excellent, but there’s something about the very first show of the year that is especially effervescent; and the three exhibitions opening on Friday really excited my imagination.

Of all the works by local artists in the Members Show: Inspired by…, which open Friday, April 7, at 6 pm, there were several that touched a nerve.

Sharon Kelley’s two paintings, Twilight and Peggy’s Cove, astonished me. I have watched Sharon’s work evolve over the years as she gained confidence working with paint. The piece inspired by the well-known Nova Scotia seaside resort, is a fine near-superealistic painting. I particularly liked her clouds and sky as well as the watery sheen on the beach.

I don’t often get a mention as anyone’s inspiration but I hear wood carver Ken Talbot was inspired to make his Hiking Staffs No. 1 and No. 2 after he thought-up, created and inserted a wood chevron into one of my walking sticks that was too short. His idea worked marvelous and adds a graphic element to my stick, which I had carved into a snake. It works, as well for his Hiking Staffs No. 1 and No. 2.

One piece that made me laugh is Diane Winingder’s Jumped by Trump. Diane has a fine eye and a wry sense of humour that she uses to good effect. This work is a wonderful piece of political satire.

Margo Goodman is another local artist who uses colour and form to express herself. Bicylette is bright, clean-edged visual song about riding a bicycle in the spring time; I can almost hear the hum of the tires zipping along the River Trail.

Peter Blackmore’s photo transfer piece, Father’s Skis, is a lovely little piece that says a lot about his memory of his Dad. Meanwhile, Tina Bafaro’s Canteen and Wooden Bowl are a tad different; I understand they have not been kiln fired as they are decorated with acrylic paint. They’re attractive and clever.

The other piece I’d like to say something about is Kip Wiley’s Indian Paintbrush. Kip is very well known — and admired — as an imaginative, careful and highly skilled photographer. In Indian Paintbrush he blends together scores of different-coloured paintbrushes. It’s eye-popping.

Ken Talbot’s Hiking Staff No. 1 and Hiking Staff No. 2 nicely underscore these two paintings by Sharon Kelley.
Inside the Box
By Peter Blackmore
mixed media, encautic
Father’s Skis
By Peter Blackmore
Wooden skis with photo transfer
By Tina Bafaro
Clay, acrylic paint (decorative)
By Margo Goodman
(Inspired n George Harrison)
Acrylic and molding compound
Jumped by Trump
By Diane Winingder
Coloured Pencil
Indian Paintbrush
By Kip Wiley

There are two solo shows on display as well.

Michelle Spragg’s Galaxia: Seeking Connection is an astonishing look at the starry skis above. These are hand-painted works. I emphasize that because at first glance some of them, especially Counting Stars, appear to be photographs. But, no, they’re not. As someone who is no stranger to painting the night sky I was gobsmacked by the evident patience Ms. Spragg exercised in her execution of these works.

Counting Stars
By Michelle Spragg
Acrylic on canvas
By the Light of the Stars
By Michelle Spragg
acrylic on canvas

Then there’s Claire Paradis’ photos of natural objects, (Ut)opia. It’s easy to miss them when you’re walking in the woods but objects, like the worm-eaten and slowly decaying pieces of wood in Bright Black have an attraction and beauty all of their own. My (Ut)opia will surely remind viewers of the inherent beauty of all the things we step over, around and sometimes on.

Bright Black
By Claire Paradis
Summer’s End
By Claire Paradis

And finally, while it’s not a listed show, the children taking Jo C Willems’ children’s art class have taken over the Sophie Atkinson Gallery with framed drawings and a few small, geometric sculptures. Here are a few photos of what you can see if you enter the gallery.

The children taking Jo C Willems’ kids’ art class have taken over the Sophie Atkinson Gallery with framed drawings and a few small, geometric sculptures. David F. Rooney photo
Artistic kids with their teacher, Jo C Willems (second from the left). Peter Blackmore photo
Although none of ther drawings have titles. they have a charm all their own, like this drawing of a work helmet on a box. Peter Blackmore photo
The kids had a lot of fun doing this and, who knows? Perhaps one or two of them will go on to become full-time artists. Peter Blackmore photo