Tuesday July 27, 2021 | SOOKE, BC
by Molly Pearce | Island Social Trends
The Sooke Fine Arts Show is online again this year, to showcase Vancouver Island and BC coastal islands’ artists. In its second year as a virtual experience, the driving force for this has of course been the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
This 35th annual Sooke Fine Arts Show is available online now (since July 23) through August 2. So grab your computers and smart devices and dive into the online guided tour of the 350 pieces selected by three jurors to collectively create this year’s show.
The 2021 show is presented as six virtual art galleries that form a virtually walk-able online exhibition that imitate as best as possible the feel of the usual in-person show. The Arbutus, Cedar, Dogwood, Garry Oak, Maple, and Sitka galleries together express the response of artists to the trials of the past year.
The overall feel of the ensemble of artwork is one of resilience and self-reflection as Vancouver Island artists have navigated this time of pandemic.The total of 350 pieces as selected by the jurors represent the work of 249 artists from around Vancouver Island and BC coastal islands.
Lively and colourful:
The Arbutus Gallery, first listed of the galleries, has a lively feel and is, overall, a very colourful collection. The gallery’s pieces tend to focus on depicting nature and tranquil outdoor spaces.
During the pandemic, Vancouver Island residents have been spending more time taking advantage of outdoor spaces, which may explain this trend of nature’s influence on the artwork.
The Sitka gallery similarly collects pieces that have been inspired by nature, in a nod, perhaps, to the increased reflectiveness that can be found in the outdoors.
Visual challenges of the online forum:
Pieces like artist Debbie Katz’ “Stay Close” in the Sitka Gallery highlight the difficulty of transforming the art show into an online space. No doubt the complex and multi-layered felted art piece could be better appreciated when viewed in person from every angle.
Another piece — a pair of three-dimensional lifesize work boots — won an award but loses some of its visual effectiveness with a photo that lacks the best possible lighting.
As another case in point, the piece in the Sitka Gallery called Go with the Grain (by Nanna Brehmer) lacks some of the three-dimensional impression that would be experienced at an in-person art show exhibit.
Grounded in the natural world:
The Cedar and Garry Oak Galleries claim portraiture and black, white and more sedated tones as their respective themes, while the Dogwood Gallery gathers pieces with rich earthy tones of green, brown, and red.
The pieces in the Dogwood gallery are grounded in the natural world, with landscapes and seascapes that represent the changes of our lives in the past year. Sharon Wareing’s “Winds of Change”, for example, reflects the changes the pandemic has wrought. She includes in the painting’s description, “I think it was the constant change in the weather that I loved. Just like the pandemic; constant changes.”
The Maple Gallery gathers pieces that similarly reflect change. This gallery’s artwork seems to speak to the resilience of people to the rough tides of the past year, and the astounding creativity that has emerged as a result.
Finally, the Youth Art Gallery showcases 24 pieces by BC island youth, and it blossoms with young talent.
The overall feel of the gallery differs from the adult galleries in that a significant portion of the art focuses on people with a sub-theme of disconnection or distress.
This year’s three jurors — Carey Newman, John Stuart Pryce, and Emily Hermant — adjudicated the pieces that were submitted to the 2021 Sooke Fine Art Show. As each year, the jurors bring their own varied backgrounds and extensive knowledge of art to the adjudication process. The art these jurors selected to receive awards reflected the themes of reflection and resilience that appear throughout the show.
The digital experience:
One way to explore COVID-19’s influence on the artwork of the 2021 show is to search based on the “tags” of pieces, one of which is labelled “covid”. The pieces categorized by this tag have descriptions that include the ways in which the artwork was impacted by or took inspiration from the conditions of the pandemic in the past year.
Purchasing artwork in this year’s art show appears to be a very streamlined process. The link to a detailed description of each piece, as well as the price and shipping information, can be accessed directly from the virtual gallery tour. While not every piece can be viewed in person, some of the artwork, like some sculptures, for example, are available for viewing in personal studio tours.
Visitors to the online show have the option to donate and to subscribe to the art lovers’ mailing list.
Guest comments and reviews:
Out of the nearly 50 reviews in the Sooke Fine Arts Show Guestbook so far, the majority have been to thank the organizers and volunteers for their outstanding work and resilience in transition the show to its online format.
Many reviews expressed the hope for a return of the in-person show next year but, overall, the online format is a very practical and intuitive way to experience the show during the pandemic. There is more information available at your fingertips in the online exhibition, including a virtual guided tour, art descriptions, artist biographies, and a link towards purchasing information and a people’s choice voting option.
While the intricacies of the artwork may sometimes be lost, the accessibility of the show from anywhere in the world surely make up for this shortcoming.
===== About the writer:
Molly Pearce is a freelance contributor with Island Social Trends in this summer of 2021. Home on Vancouver Island for the summer, Molly is heading back to McGill University in Montreal this fall, to continue her studies in English and Social Entrepreneurship.
===== About Island Social Trends:
Again this year, Island Social Trends is a Gold Sponsor of the Sooke Fine Arts Show. This is part of our mission to contribute to a knowledge-based and socially-progressive economy.
“We also believe in the power of the arts to inform and transform both individuals and communities,” says Mary P Brooke, Editor & Publisher, Island Social Trends.
The Island Social Trends Journalism Scholarship is offered each graduation season to a Grade 12 graduate in the Sooke School District 62 (SD62).