The Estevan Art Gallery and Museum (EAGM) is known for bringing great art to the community through the exhibits it hosts each year in its two gallery spaces.
But the COVID-19 pandemic has forced them to rethink how they deliver exhibits, and they have partnered with four Saskatchewan artists and Woodlawn Regional Park for something different.
Belinda Harrow, Monique Martin, Zoe Schneider and Regan Lanning have come together to have their art at Woodlawn for the rest of the summer in an outdoor art installation named Inside Out. The exhibits were installed last week, and the exhibit opened on Monday.
EAGM curator-director Amber Andersen said each artist contributed something unique, and she was delighted with how it turned out.
“I’ve curated public exhibits that are outside, but never in this context,” said Andersen.
Martin contributed life-sized, standing paper dandelions near Fresh Air Fitness that are a commentary on how we shouldn’t judge everything on appearance. Harrow has a hand-sculpted beaver and a nearby stool, close to the campground gazebo that overlooks the Souris River. Her work studies how animals have had to adapt to human behaviour.
Schneider has a grotto with glow in the dark beads that are near the Fourth Avenue South access road. Lanning created a vase that continues her work on the human condition and the strength and fragility of it. It’s near a memorial for the North West Mounted Police.
“Everyone came together talking about nature, and talking about the human condition, and I thought that might be appropriate in COVID, but in a way that we can all do it in this beautiful space, with this land that is so gorgeous,” said Andersen.
Woodlawn was selected for Inside Out because the EAGM, the park and Southeast Newcomer Services were planning a big family festival for the fall, but the event had to be postponed. So the EAGM approached Woodlawn about doing something, and they were on board.
“I had already been in conversation with these artists. I was talking to them about this, and then everyone just happened to have a piece that was talking about nature in some capacity and some way, so I thought this was perfect.”
All four artists have been exhibited at the EAGM in the past.
Martin was in Estevan on Friday to help install her work, which is named Context is Everything. It includes life-sized dandelions made out of paper that she created through silk screening, linocut techniques and paper engineering.
“They look very real,” Martin said. “They’re very authentic, and it is a comment on how every time we make a decision, we have all that baggage that we have from before that leads us to that decision.”
The dandelions would have never have happened if not for an exhibit she had in Seoul, South Korea. Martin found a type of paper that was almost free, and she purchased it in a wide variety of colours.
When she was driving home one night, she had the inspiration to create something involving weeds.
“I started experimenting, and I had this really great paper from Korea. It stands up. It holds itself. Because if you use tissue paper (alone), it falls down.”
She cut little strips and every petal herself, silk screened a little yellow line on every petal, and cut out all the leaves and inked each one on both sides to make them look real.
People have called dandelions a weed, and Martin said that means they are dismissed and aren’t viewed as important. And so she uses the exhibit to talk about human interaction and how sometimes people are automatically dismissed.
“It’s very timely right now in the news. We decide who belongs and who doesn’t belong. Very often as humans we make that decision. So I wanted to do a body of work where I use the weed, and escalate it to a higher level than what it was.”
It’s also a commentary on how people judge others based on sexual orientation, race, religion and other factors.
During her research for Context is Everything, Martin found out that long ago, dandelions were regarded as a flower. They have regained some of their luster, as people can now buy dandelion seeds in a store.
“When they see my work, I want them to think about why would she make a weed into art?” Martin asked. “Why would she make so many to look real? Why would they be taken out of the context of a weed, so that people think … when they see a … dandelion, they think ‘Well maybe it’s not a weed.”
The dandelions are elevated and surrounded by Plexiglas.
Martin applauded the EAGM and Woodlawn Regional Park for creating an exhibit that brings art to the people, and allows them to feel comfortable.
“This is a major idea that’s being explored because of COVID. The context of COVID changed how we see galleries, which is interesting,” said Martin.
She described the exhibit as a sneak peak of one she will have at the EAGM in December with 2,000 paper dandelions lit with a spotlight.
Andersen noted that all of the museums and galleries around the world have been forced to reschedule shows, and it’s good to have something locally for the public to view.
Inside Out will remain on display until Sept. 8.
The exhibit is part of a larger artistic scavenger hunt in the community that also began Monday. People are asked to find works of art, such as murals, that are located in Estevan.