Artists About Town: Birds of heavy metal and delicate paper

The Art Gallery of St Albert is welcoming spring with three exciting exhibits filling up its three gallery spaces.

The bird’s eye view of Joanne Guthrie’s studio must be a sight of some eclectic art-making tools. The professional welder who spends her downtime from the oilpatch making metal creations of her own devising has since expanded her practice into some decidedly delicate crafts as well. She makes her own paper and artistic media and uses found objects for her newest oeuvre: embroidery wall art.

“With my mixed media stuff, I make most of my mediums from scratch using organic or found ingredients. I make my own inks from berries. I use burnt wood to make charcoal and I make handmade paper as well. Also this year I’m going to be doing metal melting with recycled pieces of metal because I’m really expanding into different types of metals, like the bronze and the brass. I’ll be doing some brazing, well tig brazing mostly,” she described.

Guthrie, one of VASA’s newest resident artists, is having her big debut this month with the opening of her solo exhibit. Bird’s Eye View: An Emanation of Perfection Features 12 framed embroidery pieces on handmade paper artworks, six of which feature birds in trees, and the rest of which feature delicately arranged flowers and foliage. Juxtaposing those are a collection of 13 complete welded metal sculptures representing the types of birds found in North America.

The diversity of the artist’s skills and interests in artmaking is enough to warrant a deeper look into the show. Working with minimalism at heart, she takes scrap metal pieces that she reconfigures into small bird shapes.

“Within my metal work, I’m really, really fascinated with the raw: the rawness of the material and the worn away edges and the geometrical shapes. I really wanted to accentuate that into my metal sculptures. That’s why I use most of the cut offs,” she said.

“I grabbed pretty much a bucket full of scrap metal and I didn’t change them. I used the rawness of material. I just went with it. They’re almost like puzzle pieces when I put them together, and then they just come together and I fall in love with them. They’re amazing.”

Her embroidered birds and flowers on handmade paper also demonstrate her interest in minimalism, not only in the methods of creation, but also in the aesthetic of the end results. She strove to balance each piece symmetrically by using the least amount of lines.

“Another thing that I’ve been doing within my practice is I’ve really been trying to implement an eco-friendly and zero-waste studio process. All my paper is from my recycle bin. I’m collecting the metal as I go along.”

She noted that she is now working toward an exhibit using plastic scraps and plastic bags for the raw materials.

Bird’s Eye View runs until Saturday, April 2. VASA is located at 25 Sir Winston Churchill Ave. Call 780-460-5990 or visit vasa-art.com for more information.

Everywhere you look at AGSA…

The Art Gallery of St Albert has its main gallery space, its staircase gallery, and the feature vault — a real vault, as the building used to house a bank after all — where art can be hung. All three of those areas are alive with the variety of art that it is apt to compare the gallery itself with a garden at springtime. Its sprouts are showing.

As Julya Hajnoczky’s sanctuary (in the gallery’s main exhibition space) nears its closing date of Saturday, March 19, a new show has begun its life in the feature vault. Edmonton’s Jenny Keith has filled the walk-in safe with Keep Them safe featuring three large-scale paintings showing three endangered Alberta animals: a woodland caribou, a grizzly bear, and a whooping crane.

The U of A trained artist devoted herself to the study of her subjects in preparation for these works. She learned as much as she could about her animal subjects including their habitats, ranges, and diets, not to mention getting to know the other fauna and flora that coexist with those creatures. Keith’s artworks show the central animals surrounded by the key species that they either rely on or that rely on them. The energetic and detailed works highlight how species aren’t alone in their ecosystems. Nearly all of the species that Keith chose are currently threatened or endangered.

The artist uses this show as a way of building a spirit of wonder and conservation by inspiring others to do what they can to keep all these creatures safe for future generations. Keep Them Safe will be on display in the vault until Saturday, April 16.

Between the vault and the main exhibition space is the staircase gallery, and that’s where you’ll find Rick Wolcott’s Raven’s Tales. The show is his take on four tales featuring the ever-charismatic trickster and teacher Raven. Each carving shares a different aspect of Raven and his influence on the world. It runs until Saturday, May 7. The Art Gallery of St. Albert is located at 19 Perron St. Call 780-460-4310 or visit artgalleryofstalbert.ca for more information.

Big art events on the horizon

As public-health restrictions subside, an expected floodgate of art events is being revealed. After a few years on hiatus for COVID, Night of Artists is making its big return to the Enjoy Center on the weekend of March 18 to 20. It will start with its usual Friday night gala, followed by two days of a trade show atmosphere for dozens of visual artists to show and sell their creations. Visit nightofartists.com for more details.

ArtWalk will enliven Thursday evenings throughout the summer once more. It will take over the Perron District with art shows, sidewalk artists, and more on May 5, June 2, July 7, Aug. 4, and Sept. 1. Visit www.artwalkstalbert.com for further details.

Beyond that, the St. Albert Painters Guild is excited to bring back Art in the Open — the self-guided art tour and sale at multiple residential destinations within the city. Look for its comeback on Saturday, June 11, from 10 am to 5 pm Visit paintersguild.wildapricot.org for more details on that.

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