Barbara Heller, "The Herald," tapestry, 49" x 39.5".
BARBARA HELLER, Future Reliquaries
Elliott Louis Gallery, Vancouver
May 5 to 23, 2009
By Beverly Cramp
Years ago, a teacher told Barbara Heller, one of Canada’s premier fibre artists, that she had to look for her own “authentic personal image” — something that appealed at a visceral level and that would form the core of her art. “One of my APIs is dead birds,” she says. “It started when I noticed a cat that killed birds and left their dead bodies everywhere. I began to make these tapestries of dead birds as a way of honouring the birds. At the same time, the first Gulf War was underway and my dead bird tapestries became anti-war tapestries. The process was really about finding something I have passion for, and trying to work that into universal themes.” Heller’s latest pictorial tapestries at the Elliot Louis Gallery continue the concept. There will be three pieces based on a dead seagull she stumbled across on Granville Island in Vancouver, where she opened a fibre art studio in 1979. Heller’s large tapestries take many months to complete — her latest are idea-based, while also being powerful generators of emotion. “This show is a cerebral body of work,” she adds. “ It’s more bright and colourful than what I’ve done before.”