Longtime local multimedia artist Christina Nick is tying the knot next month, but not at a hotel or convention centre or golf course like you might expect for the typical Whistler wedding.
Instead, she’ll read her vows at the Brackendale Art Gallery, which isn’t all that unusual until you discover that the only work hanging from the walls during the ceremony will be Nick’s own.
“I just thought since it’s a gallery it would be great to have my stuff up instead of some random person’s,” joked Nick.
It only makes sense that Nick, a driving force behind developing Whistler’s arts scene since moving to the resort 23 years ago, would want to display one of her life’s greatest passions on such an important day. Art is simply an extension of who she is, like the sketchbook that she keeps with her wherever she goes, hoping to capture the essence of every unfamiliar place she visits.
“I’ve been dedicated to my art career for some time, but it’s been in conjunction with quite a bit of traveling, so most of my inspiration is based on the travels I’ve done in the years” she said.
Nick was bitten by the travel bug after completing her fine arts degree at Mount Allison University. She ventured to Europe where she met a couple of artists that helped her set up a gallery in a small town in the south of France. She still co-owns the space, and spends part of her year there.
It was in France that she started to dedicate herself to welding steel, her typical medium of choice for the distinctive animal sculptures she’s become known for.
“There’re not a lot of chicks welding steel out there. It feels a bit like the Wild West,” she said.
She typically sculpts animal-representational figures and always makes sure to imbue them with a sense of place, even when she travels to far-flung locales like Spain, Peru and Namibia.
“I try to impart a feel for where the animal’s from,” she said, inserting references to the animal’s home, like when she used First Nations symbols and found objects to represent a B.C. bear in one of her past sculptures.
Painting is another passion for Nick, who enjoys creating layered, landscape pieces, although she admits she doesn’t get as much satisfaction out of the medium as she once did.
“Painting is less original in a way. There are so many paintings and painters out there, it really feels like you have to be super original,” she said. “I’ve been focusing a lot on sculpture, partly because … every time I make a sculpture it gets better, whereas I have some paintings I made 20 years ago that are better than what I’m doing now.”
More than just a prolific artist and a jet-setting globetrotter, however, Nick was instrumental in establishing an arts community when she first moved here. She founded the long-running art showcase, Artragous, in 1991, and continued to organize that event until the Whistler Arts Council (WAC) took the reins 10 years later.
“When I moved to Whistler in 1990, I quickly saw that there was a lack of venues specifically for local artists and so I brainstormed with a friend of mine and we said: ‘Why don’t we start an art show ourselves?’” she said.
Whether through her work as director of the WAC between 1996 and 2001, or the founding of the artist-run centre, The Point with local writer Stephen Vogler a few years ago, Nick has always strove to foster Whistler’s cultural community. And, she feels it’s a torch that needs bearing these days as the WAC seeks to define its future vision for Whistler’s arts scene through it’s guiding document, the Community Cultural Plan, while maintaining profitability.
“The actual discussion (in forming the Cultural Plan) is more about defining Whistler as a community. It’s not really about money; it’s more about defining the essence of Whistler than selling bed units,” she said. The Cultural Plan is expected for release in the coming months as the WAC consults with local artists and community stakeholders. “People who come to Whistler have experiences, and if they can have an experience that is real and cultural and has to do with the soul of the town. Isn’t that just as valuable as the money?”
Nick sees The Point as one way the community can help foster its cultural community by providing a location for artists to gather, collaborate and display their work. Currently, the muni hasn’t been too receptive to the idea, and currently The Point only provides occasional workshops and events outside of the ski season.
Looking ahead, Nick has several commissions in the works for clients in Canada and the U.S., and has approached several galleries in France to display her work.
Her Duality exhibit at the Brackendale Art Gallery goes on display on March 15, the day of her wedding.
“Well, you should probably say it starts March 16, because there’s a lot of people already coming to the wedding,” she said.
Visit www.christinanick.com for more information.