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Articles by Sherry Bezanson

Art Critique: Emotion or Rationale?

Have you ever stood in front of a painting or sculpture and been awe struck? Or been dismayed that your eyes are having to view such a disaster? Both of these responses fall under the “emotional” reaction. What most amateur critics experience is an immediate state of liking or not-liking any particular piece of art. All artwork is interpretive whether your eye is professional or amateur. Professional art critics, those that evaluate and analyze others artwork, are educated to use a rational approach. They pursue a rational basis for art appreciation and focus on form, aesthetics, and organization of the work.

However, the first response to art is usually emotional. And particularly for the amateur art critic. It is about the gut-reaction, the sensory experience that viewing the art elicits. Similar to one stepping away from an argument and taking time to breath deeply, the seasoned art critic engages a balance of emotional and rational perspectives; professional critics can help the viewer appreciate the complexities and subtleties of works of art rather than simply the gut-reaction.

An art critic also has their personal theory of beauty, and beauty as we’ve often heard, is in the eye of the beholder. Consequently, is it possible for even the most “professional” of critics to separate their own sense of beauty from the integrity of the form, style, and artistic construction? In addition, putting “art” into words can be somewhat untranslatable in quality; like putting cats on leashes. How do we express the complexities of an art piece from the non-linear into the linear form of words? It can be difficult.

No matter the content, positive or negative, critics can be deadly to the creative spirit. Whether we are our own worst critics or our own best critics, keeping the ego in check is imperative. Even when a critique is positive it appeals to the ego and an artist could be swayed to continue in this particular direction, despite a soulful attraction to another direction. One can love ones own work, and that is wonderful, and yet it may not translate into commercial success. In a world that often mistakenly relies on the outside world to dictate our sense of achievement, commercial success can be used to signify whether an artist is a true Artist. But just doing the art might be enough for the budding artist, or even the mature artist.

Next time you are in the gallery notice your gut reaction and then pause and consider form, aesthetics, and the organization of the piece. Play with the words to express your pleasure or displeasure in a balanced, rational manner that also incorporates your own version of beauty. This process just might build a deeper appreciation for the work and the skill gone into the art you are viewing.

Sherry Bezanson
LAC Studio Artist and Writer

West Coast Traditional

Ladysmith Arts Council and Gallery is pleased to announce July’s exhibition: Proud Tradition and West Coast Living. The show is intended to arouse your senses with all things west coast – the natural life around us that includes the ocean, mountains, islands, lush forests, mountains, farmlands, etc. In addition, we have local Coast Salish artists displaying their work that is rich in symbolism and connection with the natural environment – “4-leggeds, 2-leggeds, winged ones” - the animals and birds of the west coast.

One of those artists, Jason Harris, is a Stz’uminus First Nation carver. He grew up in both Ladysmith and Stz’uminus and describes himself as a beginning carver. However, his work belies his sense of newness to the art. His works in the show include a white five-foot Spirit Bear carved from red cedar and coming to life in its stature. Also, he has a Welcome Figure, a child size, wearing a paddler’s jacket depicted with oars, and with abalone eyes. Both pieces are painted in traditional tones that evoke the sense of the long history and original cultures that surround Ladysmith and Vancouver Island.

Jason Harris also has smaller carved plaques of Hummingbird, Eagle, Tribal paddles, Baby Seal, and a Bear mask. Begin your collection of Coast Salish art by taking one of these home. Mr. Harris notes that he was inspired by his father and carver, Joe Harris, and later by Cowichan carver Simon Charlie. He has carved masks, plaques, totem poles and other three-dimensional figures, such as the Spirit Bear and Welcome Figure. He gradually found his love and his gift through carving and this art has inspired him to be thoroughly involved in the world around him. Jason is an active member of the Stz’uminus community where he contributes by being involved in the Men’s Group. The organization meets once a week to assist others around the community by painting fences, fundraising and donating to the children’s organizations and cultural gatherings. His work, and his life, is about giving back to the community and culture that surrounds him.

He plans to continue carving and a goal is to learn to paint and use acrylics as well. He recently won a logo contest for the logo for the Stz’uminus Soccer team. He said he has always felt welcome at the Ladysmith Arts Council, and it is hoped that his presence in shows continues.

Please do view this month’s Art Exhibition from July 7-29, 2012 – and take in Jason Harris’s work and all the other local artists.

John Marston – Coast Salish Carver

John Marston is a local carver with an international presence in the art world. His impressive and inspiring showcase of quality projects and installations is breathtaking. He’s a Coast Salish carver from Stz’uminus First Nation, and his most recent contribution of art can be seen on the cast aluminum door handles for the new Ladysmith Maritime Society’s Visitor Facilities Reception Centre. The handles represent a welcoming and hold the powerful meaning of community that Stz’uminus people are extending to Ladysmith.

Mr. Marston’s designs are traditional Coast Salish with a freshness and sharpness that is palpable. His use of subtle colours evoke the sense of island mists and the gravel runs of west coast sockeye; on others the use of the brightest reds are the shade of the roe of the fish itself. Mr. Marston explains that in the traditional Coast Salish art tradition, the form is always defined and interpreted by the artist, creating individualism in one’s work.

John Marston’s parents were both carvers and he started carving at age eight. As a young man he also worked with carver Simon Charlie from Cowichan. He describes his youth as immersed in the carving tradition of his family and relations, often creating past works from museum articles and items from private collections. John has traveled to many parts of the world working with other cultures, sharing and learning carving skills.

From 2000 to 2005 he worked full-time at the Royal BC Museum in Victoria at the Mungo Martin carving shed. He volunteered there and gave talks on Coast Salish art and culture. In addition he was a resident carver for several years where John was exposed to many talented carvers to learn them and aspire toward.

John extensive work is staggering in its quantity and quality. He has been acknowledged as he’s moved forward with many awards; the latest being receiving the annual BC Creative Achievement award for Arts in 2009. Mr. Marston has a rich appreciation of his life work and the opportunities that have unfolded. He expresses that he feels privileged to have had many experiences that resulted in exchange of ideas between cultures.

Several of his shows on Vancouver Island and in the lower mainland reflect the caliber of his current work. He has a freestanding, double-sided carving panel at the Museum of Anthropology at UBC. John describes it as a work in yellow cedar, black walnut, ebony, sepic rose and with cedar bark and root throughout. He also has one at YVR in the domestic departure area that consists of nine traditional carved paddles suspended from the ceiling. Hearing John speak of his work it is obvious that meaning is a very important, if not the most important, piece of the art. John has an installment at the Cassidy Airport in Nanaimo called White Light that “represents a prayer for our people and all people who come through our territory and for those traveling abroad. White Light represents healing”. And the healing invitation is offered out through John’s work.

As individuals and community members it is our responsibility to ensure that we accept that invitation.

Ladysmith Arts Council brands itself with new logo

The Ladysmith Arts Council's new logo was created by local artist Trisha Oldfield.
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By Sherry Bezanson - Ladysmith Chronicle
Published: January 17, 2012 10:00 AM
Updated: January 17, 2012 10:16 AM

No, not cows, and not even cowboys, and get that image of chaps out of your mind! But the effect is similar. What I’m talking about is a recognizable symbol that is a shortcut to identifying a store, a company or, in this case, the Ladysmith Arts Council.

A “brand” is not just a label, a logo or a signature — instead, it is one of the most powerful marketing tools a business or organization can have.

This year, the Ladysmith Arts Council has been fortunate to have a new logo created by local artist Trisha Oldfield.

Oldfield, an Arts Council member, has forged a successful commercial and professional artist career for more than 12 years. Her images are playful, lively and engaging. You stop and look twice at Trisha Oldfield’s work.

A few swishes here and there, a zap of colour, and voila, we have a branding. The effort is much more involved than this simple description, and yet the finished product evokes a sense of startling simplicity, which in fact is the key to being recognizable. That’s what true artists do — they make visual an image that looks easy and natural.

The Arts Council’s new logo will be seen on newsletters, the website, letterhead and all promotional materials.

Oldfield has provided logo design and graphic design services in the past for clients such as Salt Spring Coffee, Thermoproof Windows and Urban Legends Salon Spa in Chemainus, Fernwood Coffee in Victoria, Heritage Business Park and Lighthouse Mortgages in Ladysmith … to name just a few. Currently, Oldfield is one of the studio artists at the Ladysmith Waterfront Gallery, and she is focusing on fine art and commercial illustration.

“The arts council is more than five years old in this location, and it was time we had an identifiable image that associates us with the Waterfront Gallery,” indicates Arts Council president Kathy Holmes. “And part of the branding is our identify; the logo is contemporary, looking strong in both colour and black and white. Once people start recognizing it, it lends legitimacy and authenticity to the Arts Council of Ladysmith and District. It’s important to be easily recognized, as people are visual, and this logo will allow people to see it and recognize projects that we are involved in. In addition, it will be that much easier to find the gallery having the logo on highway and directional signs.”

Holmes says Oldfield was asked to design a logo that didn’t involve the sea, an arbutus or seagulls. She explains that those images are over-used on the Island and don’t provide enough information.

Three simple letters: L A C. Holmes feels that the artist nailed it on the head.

“We are more than delighted!” she says. “Trisha understood the logo needed to identify the council with the members and that the council represents some of the best artists on the Island.”

The logo launch is exciting as it markets the Arts Council in a fresh, simple, modern way.

“We want the public to come here for art, just like a customer will go to their favorite branded store for purchases.”
Published in the Ladysmith Chronicle

“Chair-itable” Art

Most chairs encountered throughout the day define themselves fairly simply – a place at the family table, a comfortable spot with a great view of the sea, a seat in front of the computer station. This year that is all about to change.
The Ladysmith Arts Council is excited to announce a fun and creative fundraising event – the Chair Auction. The Arts Council has been collecting old chairs for several months, chairs that need a second chance. The revival starts on January 14, 2012, when artists can pick up a chair and using their inspiration and skill, transform them into works of art. The transformation, which could include paint, decoupage, collage, mosaic tiles, paper mache, fabrics, multi-media, and other embellishments could last days or months, and come July 1, 2012 these prized chairs will be auctioned off to the highest bidders at the Transfer Beach Amphitheatre.
Most of the donated chairs were on their way to the scrap yard, salvaged from the recycle depot, or simply wasting their charms in someone’s basement. Some of them needed a little stabilizing and local craftsmen donated the carpentry work. The fundraising project will breathe new life into something once deemed worthless, and upcycle it into art and a functional eye-catching piece of furniture. A conversation piece can emerge that will ignite others to express their creativity in unique ways. Plus you can sit on it!
If you have artist leaning or yearnings, perhaps it’s time to up your creative mastery by signing up to take part in the chair creations. Kathy Holmes, President of the Ladysmith Arts Council has been the moving force behind the project.
“We want to engage people from our community to bring out their playful and creative sides”, says Kathy Holmes. You can give by giving your artistic talent and time, or by purchasing the finished product at the auction in July.
Ensure that you block off July 1 in your daybook and calendar and take in the auction. The Arts Council hopes to attract a variety of local buyers and also off-island travelers who hear of the function. Please extend invitations to others who have a desire to enliven their home and the local arts world, and also to those interested in increasing their own delight in owning an art chair.

Our Author

Sherry Bezanson

If I were to appease the goddesses of service and completely give up my day job as a social entrepreneur, I would love to make my living doing mixed media, collage and fabric arts. That would put a smile on my face. Combining west coast imagery, such as the sea, boats, and visages of marine life enthuses me and inform’s my art. I get lost in this form of creative work and hours can go by as I interface with words, fabric, pictures, photos – all creating a new story in a non-linear way. Up-cycling with fabric is also a transformative experience for me…imagining new ways to recreate old fashion items. I began this work in 1990 and it has evolved with my own experiences and time away from the desktop. A lot of my creative juices are also squeezed out in the form of words – I write poetry, do creative journaling, write professional and creative articles, and technical manuals.

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