Glimpses into the (Art) Ecosystem

We often hear of an “art community,” but the reality is that there are several. Some interact with each other, some run parallel and never meet, and some are actively in opposition to each other.
There is a hierarchy of sorts: from amateur to professional, from unknown to household name, with all the stops in between. And all the stages are important, as artists will intersect with many of them throughout their careers. Showing their work in an art museum one year, in a community gallery or artist-run centre the next, as part of a community exhibition in a local art centre another. They may be members of a cooperative for most of their careers, or they may seek other venues for their work, selling on-line, opening their own galleries, or seeking representation in other provinces or countries.
It is indeed an eco-system and two important parts of that local environment are Viewpoint Gallery, a member-run cooperative that concentrates on photography, and the Craig Gallery, a community exhibition space in Alderney Landing.
Viewpoint Gallery features workshops, classes and monthly exhibitions from its members, all of whom are Nova Scotia-based photographers. The recent exhibition Minas Basin: The Landscapes, features new work by Wolfville photographer Carl Snyder.
Large, panoramic views of the shoreline and river mouths of the landscape around Wolfville, Snyder’s works are reminiscent of noted Canadian photographer Thaddeus Holownia in their horizontal format and choice of subject matter. Unlike Holownia, however, who uses vintage film cameras, Snyder achieves his large-scale horizontal format through digitally stitching together multiple views, a much more sophisticated version of the panorama effect available on many digital cameras. Snyder’s constructed landscapes are seamless, and their large scale works well with their subject matter. Featuring images taken in all seasons, Minas Basin: The Landscapes conveys the beauty of the Nova Scotia landscape in a quiet, compelling manner.
Viewpoint Gallery, which for the past few years has occupied a storefront on Barrington Street, has recently moved to a new space on Brenton Street. You will find it on the block of Brenton between Spring Garden Road and Morris Street.
The Craig Gallery at Alderney landing is a community gallery funded by the city and programmed by a volunteer committee. Its exhibition program is varied, featuring artists whose careers range from emerging to amateur to professional. It also features one of the most diverse programs in the city, due in large part to its expansive and generous exhibition mandate. Its current exhibition features work by Cape Breton textile artist Hélène Blanchet.
Blanchet’s images are made using quilting techniques, along with various appliqué and embroidered additions. In the exhibition Calgary Days, the works tell the story of her family’s move from Cape Breton to Calgary, and of the jobs she took there, the places they lived, and the people they got to know. All the same scale, 19 by 39 inches in vertical format, these narrative works also feature painted frames that continue the imagery of the textiles. Blanchet, who is a self-taught artist, is part of a new generation of Nova Scotia folk artists, not the outsiders or uneducated rural workers of the past, but rather artisans who adopt the style of folk art as a genre, much as another artist would become a realist or an abstract artist. Skilful and engaging, Blanchet’s work is visually vibrant and materially inventive.
Another part of the local art ecosystem are the commercial galleries. One of the more active galleries in terms of organizing events and activities to enhance their exhibition program is Argyle Fine Art on Barrington Street. Coming up from them is an interesting opportunity to help a good cause and to have a unique drawing experience. On Nov. 27 from 10 am until noon, staff from the Cobequid Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre will be bringing one of their charges, Zeus the Red-tailed hawk, to the gallery for an information session on the Centre’s activities supporting wildlife at risk, and a drawing session featuring Zeus as the model.
Minas Basin: The Landscapes at Viewpoint Gallery and Calgary Days at the Craig Gallery are both on view until Dec. 2.

This story was originally published in Halifax Magazine.

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