It’s all but impossible to avoid politics these days — particularly south of the border.
From a reality TV president to climate change, natural disasters and gun control, there’s no end of politically charged topics for artists to delve into. To that end, a new group exhibit at The Gallery at the Maury Young Arts Centre kicked off earlier this month to examine our views, biases and perspectives on the world.
It features local artists like Maeve Bellmore, Laura Scarr, Incredible Amoeba, Tani Hamagishi-Allen and Kyle Graham, as well “special guest” Vancouver artists Sandeep Johal and Carling Jackson.
The Question caught up with programs and events manager Andrea Mueller over email to find out more about – + ÷ =, running until Oct. 25.
The Question: First, can you tell me about the name of the exhibit?
Andrea Mueller: The name of the exhibit is a reference to the global societal and political climate. We are hearing more and more that our populations are struggling with a growing divide between different socio-economical groups and classes. “+ -” (means) as much as many people feel that we are divided in many different ways (and) may be feeling a sense of separation from one another, we are all actually equals. “ = ÷”
Q: What type of mediums are part of the show?
AM: Paintings, photography, collage, mixed media and the Sisters in Spirit red dress installation.
Q: Were you surprised by the pieces you got?
AM: The theme was very broad allowing for the artist to interpret and express the theme in their own way. The artists have very different styles and subject matter but all share an important message.
Kyle Graham’s work (is) intent on pushing the boundaries of what society considers normal in terms of nudity, sexuality, gender and identity. Carling Jackson, a self-taught artist, has used her artwork as a medium to raise awareness and fight injustice around the world initially inspired by her work with the NAACP in Louisiana to fight racial injustice and systemic oppression. She has done artistic works with and for different oppressed and minority populations from Syrian Refugees in Canada to street children in Brazil.
Q: Did you put a call out for artists or choose this group?
AM: Yes we put out a call for artists to apply, however we reached out directly to Vancouver artist Sandeep Johal who focuses her work on gender justice.
(In an Arts Whistler blog post Johal said:) “I care about a lot of things, but I’m most passionate about gender justice, more specifically, femicide. Every time I hear about another woman being assaulted, raped, and/or murdered, I feel a deep rage and sadness. We need to dismantle deeply entrenched belief systems around gender from the inside out and rebuild a more equitable one. We cannot restrict women’s freedoms and continue to put the onus on women to stay safe by changing their behaviours. We need to make a cultural and societal shift instead and educate people to think of women as autonomous subjects, not objects, and educate men that hurting women is not OK and will not be tolerated.”
Q: The shows at The Gallery often aren’t political. Why did you want to tackle these topics now?
AM: The Gallery at the Maury Young Arts Centre is Whistler’s only “community gallery” showcasing over 70 per cent local artists work often alongside the work of artists from other parts of British Columbia and Canada typically not represented by commercial galleries. We offer a diverse range of programming with a variety of mediums and subject matter being exhibited.
The Gallery also hosts artist group exhibits and community collaborations that engage residents and visitors in a dialogue about issues and ideas that affect our communities, through the medium of artistic interpretation. Some examples of previous art shows are: Artists for an Oil Free Coast (shining light on pipeline projects), Sacred Headwaters (looking at environmentally fragile headwaters), Unordinary Lives (examining the impact of conflict on Afghani people) and Live for the Moment (based on UBC research about how men react when they lose friends).