All Islands Art Show brings artists’ winter work to light

Coming out from the short dark days of winter, a kaleidoscope of artists will show their colours tonight at the All Islands Art Show.

Coming out from the short dark days of winter, a kaleidoscope of artists will show their colours tonight at the All Islands Art Show.

Open to all adults who make art on the islands, dabbler or pro, the month-long show kicks off at 7 p.m. with what is likely to be a packed grand opening at the Haida Heritage Centre at Kay Llnagaay.

“It gives islands artists, especially emerging artists — people that are brand-spanking new to the whole thing — a chance to put their work out there,” says Penny Richardson, a Tlell artist who has joined the annual show since the early 1990s.

Run by friendly volunteers with the Haida Gwaii Arts Council and staged in a top-notch gallery at the Kay Centre, Richardson said All Islands is a great place to show your work for the first time.

Artists can win a people’s choice award, but All Islands is not a competitive, juried show.

Instead, artists can meet one-on-one or in a group with an adjudicator who offers constructive feedback on things like composition and colour values.

“Sometimes they miss the point entirely,” said Richardson, laughing.

“But they really take the time to be interested in what you do.”

Sparking interest should be an easy thing for Richardson’s own pieces, mostly because of her chosen material: dryer lint.

Years ago, Richardson noticed how a friend crafted some very fine fur for a small cat in an installation piece (a twelve-inch papier-mâché toilet with a cat book on top).

“It was really puzzling — I couldn’t place the texture,” she said.

When Richardson found out what it was, “the game was on.” Fans mail her dryer lint from all over — Bermuda, England, Germany — and Richardson happily welcomes more, especially yellow, gold and orange.

“Just no greys,” she added. “I’ve got bales and bales of greys.”

Allison Smith is a member of the Haida Gwaii Arts Council, and coordinator of this year’s show.

“It’s hugely volunteer-run,” said Smith, noting that it takes many volunteers to hang the pieces — anywhere from 40 to 80 submissions — and the artists themselves make all the appetizers for opening night.

Shortly before the show closes on March 19, Vancouver muralist and painter Richard Tetrault will spend three days on island to adjudicate the pieces, offer a mixed-media workshop, and give a slideshow about his own large-scale murals, including The Big Print Project — a collaboration where several artists used an industrial steamroller to pull four- by eight-foot woodcuts.

Tetrault’s visit is supported by a public arts education grant from Gwaii Trust and the Haida Gwaii Arts Council.

Smith said she started getting calls about the show as early as November.

“I think people really like it because it’s so community-driven,” she said, noting that it’s scheduled well outside tourist season.

Kara Sievewright, a freelance artist and graphic designer known for her historical comics, said that’s true for her — a highlight of the show is just seeing who else is making art on Haida Gwaii.

“There are a lot of artists on island, and you don’t always get to see what they’re working on,” she said, whether because they do it as a hobby, or sell most of their work off island.

If she can finish in time, Sievewright will submit a watercolour inspired by the churning herring balls that appeared in Skidegate Inlet this winter, often under a cloud of swooping eagles.

Many people are sure to want a second look at Sievewright’s work, which last year won the top people’s choice award.

“I was very touched by that for sure,” she said.

“It’s nice to know that people in your community appreciate what you’re doing.”