Connecting the Dots
March 24 to June 9, 2012, Kamloops Art Gallery
June 15 to July 12, 2012, Thompson Rivers University Art Gallery, Kamloops
June 15 to July 28, 2012, Arnica Artist Run Centre, Kamloops
By Portia Priegert
An ambitious grassroots art project in Kamloops aims to connect the dots between more than 30 international, national and regional artists. Organized by Kamloops artist Tricia Sellmer, the unthemed exhibition in three venues lets the community explore work by artists from the Transart Collective, a group of international alumni, faculty and advisors affiliated with the Transart Institute, a low-residency graduate program based in Europe that calls itself “the unschool”.
Sellmer, who completed her MFA through Transart in 2009, says the project demonstrates the tremendous opportunities the digital age offers artists. “Connecting the Dots reflects the notion that artists, either locally or globally, are able to come together, connect, and give voice to different ideas, issues and themes,” she says. “This notion becomes increasingly apparent when today, we’re not only connected through digital media and technology, but also seem to rely on this digital and social phenomena in our everyday lives.”
Sellmer says the project, the largest she’s organized, was originally envisioned on a much smaller scale for Arnica, the city’s artist-run centre. She put out a call for local artists and spread the word through her friends in the Transart community. The response was overwhelming. Although little funding was available, international artists — who can send work inexpensively on computer discs or in mailing tubes — jumped at the opportunity.
Two other venues, the Kamloops Art Gallery and the Thompson Rivers University Art Gallery, soon offered to show some of the work. “I didn’t expect the response I received,” says Sellmer, who is presenting one of her own videos about the landscape of the B.C. Interior. “It really became an art project from me just throwing things out and seeing what would happen.”
The first phase was launched at the Kamloops Art Gallery in March with videos that explore time and space by Berlin-based artist Astrid Menze and Doug Buis, a professor at Thompson Rivers University. The videos are projected so that clouds in Buis’ work drift across the gallery walls and mingle with images of Menze, who seems to float through interior spaces along with various domestic objects.
One of the highest-profile exhibitors is Khaled Hafez, a Cairo-based artist who blends ancient Egyptian imagery with contemporary themes. His work has been shown at international biennales and art institutions, including the Centre Georges Pompidou in Paris and the Tate Modern in London.
Several significant Western Canadian artists are participating, including Aganetha Dyck and her son, Richard, known for their work with bees and interspecies communication. Winnipeg artist Leah Decter’s work explores historical narratives, and Vancouver Island artist Heather Thomas, who focuses on the impact of war and other conflicts.
Kamloops participants include two professors at Thompson Rivers University, Eileen Leier, who looks at the Adams River salmon run, and Ila Crawford, who deals with issues around women, visibility and aging. Sellmer says the project also includes emerging artists from Kamloops who are getting a unique opportunity to broaden their understandings of contemporary art practices.
Sellmer isn’t sure how many Transart artists will visit Kamloops, but notes that planning is underway for workshops, talks and other public events. Sellmer is publishing a catalogue on a shoestring budget by printing cards that can be inserted into plastic sleeves. “I think art should be really accessible,” she says. “If you have a voice, you find a way to express it.”