Cross-border creativity, connection, and cultural exchange are the inspiration behind a new contemporary art exhibition centered on the Salish Sea.
ArtSpring, in collaboration with Salt Spring Arts, will debut a collection of work by San Juan Islands artists April 21st through May 24th, in the first of two cross-border exhibitions. The second installment will feature Southern Gulf Island artists at the San Juan Islands Museum of Art from September 22nd - December 4th, 2023.
Archipelago Exhibition Highlights Collaboration Between Salish Sea Art Communities
“How does living and working in the Pacific Northwest inform and influence your work?” Salt Spring-based co-curators Richard Steel and Pat McCallum asked this of twelve artists -- six from the Southern Gulf Islands and six from the San Juan Islands-- each hand-selected with San Juan curator Peter Lane. It was a simple question but received a tidal wave of responses. From melancholy weather affecting their palettes to the desire for self-imposed isolation; from creating their work in old-growth forests and on mountaintops to immersing themselves directly into the sea; from the SalishSea being a location versus a state of mind – the artists shared that they have a sensibility, a spirit, and a profound sense of place. Despite being separated by an international border, the artists of the Salish Sea seem bound together more by commonalities than distinguished by differences.
This is the theme of a new international visual arts exhibition and cultural exchange, Archipelago: Contemporary Art of the Salish Sea, a collaboration between the creators and art centers in two of North America’s most fêted art communities. It marks the first time a cross-border exhibition of this size and caliber has been launched in the region, and the first partnership between ArtSpring (in collaboration with Salt SpringArts), who will host 6 artists from the San Juan Islands from April 21 to May 24, and the San Juan Islands Museum of Art, who will host the Southern Gulf Islands artists from September 22 to December 4. Howard Jang, Executive & Artistic Director of ArtSpring says that “ArtSpring welcomes the opportunity to present its first international visual art exhibition. To be able to expand on what we offer, collaborate creatively with such close neighbors, and help facilitate conversations between these diverse artists is a thrilling prospect for us and our islanders. This exhibition shines a light on the natural connection and inspiration of our shared geography.” Barbara Cox, Exhibition Committee member of the San Juan Islands Museum of Art adds that “the impetus behind Archipelago was the desire to encourage collaboration among the communities of the San Juan Islands and the Southern Gulf Islands - a region intertwined by history, in a space defined by a common geographical location, but divided by an international border. Archipelago strives to forge human and artistic connections with multifaceted projects now and into the future.” “Selected for their thoughtful and boundary-pushing work in six mediums – painting, printmaking, sculpture/installation, glasswork, photography, and tapestry/textiles, all 12 artists differ widely in age, medium, background, ancestry, and the scale of their work,” explains Steel. “They have all forged a voice that makes them individually unique, while still responding to their distinct geographical area.”
The exhibition features the voices of Indigenous artists in the exquisitely rendered glassworks of U.S. artist Raven Skyriver and the intricate, nature-inspired carvings of Canadian Salish artist TEMOSENG Chazz Elliott. Many artists have chosen to make bold and beautifully crafted statements on the vulnerability of our environment like Canadian tapestry artist Jane Kidd and installation artist Anna Gustafson along with U.S. photographer Danielle Dean. Also featured are massive, tempestuous paintings by Canadian John Macdonald and the visceral, provocative brushstrokes of U.S. artist RaVae Luckhart; bold, spiritual landscapes by American painter Joe Miller and alternative landscapes of the mind captured by Canadian photographer Sam Montalbetti; haunting images from Canadian fabric artist Joanna Rogers and U.S. printmaker Glenn Hendrick. The list is rounded out by celebrated American stone sculptor Tom Small, renowned for his skill and sensitive use of materials. According to the artists themselves, the natural geography of their homes has impacted their perspectives, techniques, mediums, and subject matters. American Midwesterner Glenn Hendrick notes how the move from the flat open topography of Chicago to the San Juan Islands profoundly changed her woodblock work, as we see in her abstract Pacific Northwest prints reminiscent of Japanese Ukiyo-e landscapes. “Living in the islands, I am now endlessly fascinated by the stacked and layered perspectives that are found amongst these little sea mountains,” says Hendrick.“From the ferry window, they seem to shift across each other like the backdrops of a stage being set for the next scene.”
Raven Skyriver, a Pilchuck alum who has become a highly collected glass artist in the US, recounts the influence of growing up on Puget Sound. Skyriver’s work is almost exclusively dedicated to the marine ecosystem, and his attempt to place the creatures back into their environment by capturing their fluid nature in molten glass with hues and exquisite precision makes them feel alive and suspended in water.
For other artists, it is less about representational expressions of the coastal environment around them, but rather submitting an ideological sensibility about it, namely the human impact on the natural world and concerns for its preservation -- be that climate change, pollution, garbage, and threats to wildlife. Salt Spring artists Jane Kidd and Anna Gustafson seek to make bold statements with their work, as do American photographer Danielle Dean and Canadian John Macdonald in more meditative, subtle contemplations. Infusing meaning through her masterful textiles and tapestries, Kidd affirms, “I see this current work as a warning of environmental disaster; a call to pay attention and recognize our complicity in environment carelessness.” Her fabrics are complex stories of pattern and color inspired by objects like rusty metal, industrial garbage, beach refuse, or small natural phenomena like mold, lichens, moss, and shell middens.
The exchange and presentation of work that, while separated by an international boundary nevertheless shares important themes and messages, feels both timely and necessary. It is a development that both ArtSpring and SJIMA are committed to supporting. “This exhibition serves as an opportunity for artists, as well as art centers, to engage in meaningful cultural exchange, foster relationships, introduce our communities to world-class artistic excellence, and form a bit of pride that for such a small specific region, we can celebrate something unique on the global stage,” says Howard Jang.
San Juan Island Artist Exhibition | ArtSpring Gallery, Salt Spring
by RSVP April 21, 5:00-7:00 pm | Hours 10 am - 4 pm May 24
Artist Panels for the Community | Salt Spring
Saturday, April 22: 10:30 am at ArtSpring: Joe Miller, John MacDonald, Sam Montalbetti, Danielle Dean, Glenn Hendrick, Anna Gustafson
Saturday, April 22: 2:00 pm MahonHall: RaVae Luckhart, Joanna Rogers, Jane Kidd, Raven Skyriver, Tom Small, TEMOSENG Chazz Elliott.
Artists, curators, and organizers are available for interviews, and high-resolution images are available upon request.