Fantastic Art in Your Own Backyard

We just got back from celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary! We spent a lovely week in Victoria, BC at Oak Bay Beach Hotel where we sat by the ocean front pool and soaked up the sun and watched the wildlife. It was wonderful and a bit unexpected as our travel wings were clipped from the global pandemic.

Before we crossed the ferry to Vancouver Island, we enjoyed a couple nights stay in Whistler, BC. We were pleasantly surprised to discover that this is not just a winter destination but had lots of great stuff going on in the hot summer months. 

Whenever I travel anywhere with my husband, we often end up searching for the local galleries. We soon discovered there is so much great art to explore in our own backyard and we ended up finding some fantastic spots at Whistler.

After popping in and out of stores, we came across The Plaza Galleries just on the main village stroll. What a fun place! The art on display was very colourful and so interesting to look at, like a candy store for your eyes. I’m going to call their main style contemporary landscapes as opposed to traditional landscape. 

I was immediately drawn to Branko Marjanovic’s landscapes which were so vibrant and beautifully executed. 

But I have to say my favourite artist was Irene Gendelman who paints such fun textured, stylized ballerinas. Her dancers are merely abstract stick figures with ballerina tutus but she captures such movement in the way they are painted. Her figures are so playful you can almost see them dancing on stage. 

The other pieces that stood out to us was Linda Madden’s carved antlers. This artist turns moose antlers into flying eagles. So creative!

Afterwards, we went to the Audain Art Museum. Years ago I had read an article about this museum and was eager to stop in for a visit. 

Instead of being a government funded organization, this museum was funded from a major philanthropic gift by Michael Audain and Yoshiko Karasawa. Amazing! I was so fascinated by this. Instead of spending money on other luxuries (like say a $1.5 million dollar gold & diamond encrusted face mask for the Covid pandemic for instance… ridiculous!), they bought an art museum. (If I ever stumble across a pot of gold, I would love to buy an art museum.)

This museum is filled with art they had purchased and needed a place to house their collection. Their collection includes some fantastic first nations carved masks, an enormous and awe-inspiring carved screen by Haida Gwaii artist James Hart entitle “The Dance Screen”, along with a gallery hall full of Emily Carr paintings. 

While we visited, the current exhibition was an interesting look at photography through the ages. Some other fun contemporary pieces was a totem pole made of golf bags and a gigantic blue broom. (This is why I love artists so much… they think the world needs a 20+ foot blue broom, so they create one. Fantastic!)

But, if you are not inspired by the Audain Art Museum building itself, then there is seriously something wrong with you.

Lastly, we visited, my personal favourite, the Whistler Contemporary Gallery. Tucked away in a basement of shops, this gallery is curated beautifully with a display of contemporary artwork that is not too-far-out-there but more thought provoking in media choice or subject matter. 

Take Elena Bulatova for instance, who creates sculptures of melting popsicles and lollipops to convey the fleeting nature of life. Not only are they fun to admire but they have a deeper, tangible meaning.

Another public favourite was Jane Waterous paintings of fun blobs of vivid colours turned into playful figures in interesting compositions on a pure white background. 

But my favourite was Jay Kelly’s collage bears. These bears are photographic but are created using shredded text and art papers. Looking closely you can see how he “drew” the highlighted fur with pieces of texted paper from a book. So interesting!

Art can be something we take for granted. We never realize the wonderful artists in our own backyard. Being grounded from world wide travel with this pandemic, it’s a good time to find out what you might be missing in your own local community. You never know, you might come across some real gems!