Spring Arts Preview 2023: Visual arts critics' picks
My great-grandmother was a painter. Over the course of her lifetime, she painted dozens of pictures of glowering clouds rumbling ominously above stoic coastal windmills. Her favourite subject was storms: if you were an alien using her work to learn about the world, you’d think the east coast of England existed permanently in a state of awful, tumultuous downpours. My dad still has those paintings somewhere. I tell him we should donate them to a local museum, host a little exhibition, invite more people to see a little bit of their brooding beauty. He won’t.
Why am I telling you this? Art is in everyone’s blood. It’s part of the human condition. Representative, abstract, photography, sculpture, textile—visual art’s many, manifest forms touch all our lives. Every artwork is a little piece of someone’s soul, and a reminder of our long history as creatures who crave creation. Go see something beautiful.
Amy Rice: Oh Canada
At 716 East Hastings Gallery to March 25
Outsiders and Others set up shop in 2020, dedicated to showcasing work from self-taught artists across Vancouver, Canada, and the world. Minnesota artist Amy Rice’s collection of mixed-media prints, created on vintage envelopes that were all mailed to Canada, makes a visceral connection between the materials used and the images shown. Postmarks become flags, motion lines, and suns, playing with the form of the canvases to make whimsical little creations. The Draw: Pocket-sized, wistful, nostalgic images that you could pop in a postbox. Please don’t, though.
Salón Silicón: Senos de Hombre
At Sum Gallery to March 25
One of the few dedicated queer art galleries in Canada, SUM’s opening exhibition of 2023 asks what a queer body looks like. With a name drawn from the deliberate misreading of a lyric in “Que Bollo” by La Sonora Dinamita, Senos de Hombre—“man tits”—explores gender roles, non-binary body positivity, and the expression of queerness in a world of cultural machismo. Mexican artists Romeo Gómez López, Sandra Blow, Alan Hernández, and Karl Frías García combine photography, sculpture, and sex toys to examine how queer identities survive and thrive. The Draw: Ruby-red, fuzzy little dildos mix humour and sex with serious considerations about how marginalization affects the expression of queer identity.
Jin-me Yoon: Long Time So Long 윤진미: 롱타임 쏘 롱
At the Art Gallery at Evergreen to April 30
Vancouver art superstar Jin-me Yoon’s new collection of multimedia work explores that elephant in the room that’s been sitting on top of us for the last three years: the COVID-19 pandemic. Yoon explores the diasporic perspective of being stuck in one place, feeling both local and distant, as time stretches on like chewing gum. Emojis and traditional Korean Talchum masks both feature heavily, blending contemporary and classic influences into a sharp edge-of-sleep rumination on our strange present moment. The Draw: A multilayered soundscape of local youth with Korean ancestry fills the exhibition space, adding a dream-like edge to the whole experience.
As We Rise: Photography from the Black Atlantic
At Polygon Gallery to May 14
Portrait photography is a delicate push and pull between photographer and subject. What matters more: the person captured on film, the person taking the photograph, or the intangible relationship between the two? In As We Rise, Black artists take photos of Black people, depicting them as they wish to be seen, mutually and consensually, as varied and idiosyncratic as a family photo album. Guided tours of the exhibit take place every Thursday evening and Saturday afternoon, if you want an insider perspective. The Draw: Dozens of artists are featured in the exhibition that centres the familial and the familiar, providing a huge range of artistic sentiments and sensibilities.
Shary Boyle: Outside the Palace of Me
At Vancouver Art Gallery to June 4
Canadian visual artist and performer Shary Boyle isn’t afraid to do something out of the box. Their latest exhibition uses identity theatre to explore global and social crises, and also our perceptions of self. Outside of the Palace of Me takes the language of performance arts—costume, character, set design, stage effects—and mixes it with ceramics, drawings, and two-way mirrors to ask how we see each other, and how we see ourselves. The gallery turns from viewing space to a set for playful imagination and collective performance: by seeing others, we’re part of the art. The Draw: Boyle worked with a host of other creatives to reimagine the exhibition hall—including an amusement park innovator. Just don’t get candy floss on the art.
Capture Photography Festival
At various locations from April 1 to 30
Since launching a decade ago, Capture has become the one-stop spot for lens-based art. Taking over dozens of galleries and public spaces every April, the festival celebrates photography and film, connecting the public with gorgeous art and each other. There are exhibitions all over Metro Vancouver, from Ema Peter’s exploration of modern West Coast architecture at the West Vancouver Art Museum to Alyson Davies’ whimsical Blue Earth Tarot installation at Lafarge Lake-Douglas College SkyTrain station. The Draw: Everyone has a camera these days; fine art photography reminds us there’s more to it than just clicking a shutter.
Winters Hotel: A Sense of Place
At MRG: Mackenzie Heights from April 13
When the Winters Hotel burned down and killed two residents, Yasmeen Strang’s photography of the building changed from a personal documentary of her friend’s first home in Canada into a ponderous eulogy. The memorialization of both an individual experience, and the recent loss of many now-former residents’ homes, raises questions about what art recalls—and forgets. The Draw: A slice of local history that lasts beyond the physical building.
A Small but Comfy House and Maybe a Dog
At Richmond Art Gallery from April 22 to June 11
With a title drawn from Amy Ching-Yan Lam’s childhood dreams of her future, the exhibition by Lam and HaeAhn Woo Kwon delves into the complexities of how colonialism shapes colonized peoples’ longing. Remade models of toys, domestic materials, and found objects populate a fantasy communal home, with each item carrying its own stories of cultural theft or institutional power. The Draw: The eponymous dog is based on Looty, a Pekingese pup stolen from China by British soldiers during the Second Opium War, combining both cute animals with traumatic colonial history.
Things that do not come by the road
At Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery from May 5 to June 4
The annual exhibition of UBC’s Master of Fine Arts students answers the question: what do they teach kids in art school these days? Reggie Harold, Sarv Iraji, Ramneet Kaur, Alejandra Morales, and Kitt Peacock display their work, which ranges across different media and presentations to find each artists’ unique, distinctive voice. The Draw: Students of today are the great masters of tomorrow. Get in on the ground floor, and have bragging rights when one of these five really blows up.
CAMP: Site 003CAMP
At Slice of Life Art Gallery from May 18 to 23
Slice’s community gallery features new art from a featured creator every week, making it difficult to decide which exhibition to highlight. Honestly, pop by any afternoon you’re in Strathcona for a dose of local, lively art (if they’ve got room for you). I chose CAMP: Site 003CAMP for Laveen Gammie’s exploration of both camp(ing) as a part of “West Coast” culture; and camp as an exaggerated, kitschy aesthetic. Wordplay aside, the zesty mix of camp with the rugged seriousness many B.C. locals imbue upon camping invites interesting considerations of how we commodify nature. The Draw: Affordable originals, merchandise, prints and fine art are all for sale in the cute and cozy gallery space.