Sculpting A STORY

Discover unique works of sculpture and carving at Whistler's galleries

by DEE RAFFO

Our lives are a complex negotiation of space, people and place, and sculpture is a visual exploration into these aspects. Sculpture allows the artist and viewer to ask questions about the world around them and see it reflected back in a different way — through a combination of shapes, forms and materials they might not have expected.

Here are five artists who manipulate their work in order to tell a story, convey a concept or provoke a response, and all of their pieces are here in Whistler for you to experience in person.

METAL THAT DEFIES GRAVITY

MATT DEVINE, WHISTLER VILLAGE ART GALLERY

"When I first saw Matt's work I loved how his sculptures seemed to float on the wall," said Jeanine Messeguer, director of Whistler Village Art Gallery. "Even though they are non-representational, one cannot help to feel a strong organic influence and a harmonizing aesthetic."

Born in Salem, Mass., Devine now works and resides in Southern California, where he has been honing his metal fabrication skills since 1995. Although his work is made up of steel, aluminum and bronze, the sculptures manage to appear weightless — defiant of gravity. The names of his sculptures suggest a strong connection with nature — "Flurry," "Ember," "Little Cottonwood," "Blue Bird" and "Birch." However, names like "Resurrection," "Reversion" and "Reflection" speak to the more abstract nature of the finished product.

Devine's work is mesmerizing in its seeming simplicity. He manipulates the metals and plays with spatial relationships to create incredibly evocative pieces that feel connected with nature despite the medium.

Visit www.whistlerart.com for more information.

CASTING NATURE

CHRISTINA NICK, ART JUNCTION

Light bounces off the body of a steel salmon in the Art Junction Gallery as a running hare casts a shadow across the floor. These are both the works of Christina Nick, a multi-disciplinary artist based out of Brackendale, just south of Whistler. Inspired by her work as a wildlife guide, park ranger and naturalist, Nick's artwork is a reflection on humanity's role in the natural environment. She works in welded steel, cire perdu (lost-wax casting) bronze, carved stone and wood.

Nick feels her sculpture of the hare represents the "wiry resilience of the animal." She admires the hare's ability to change colour and blend in with its surroundings and hopes the steel structure reflects the "there, but not there" quick-footed movements of the animal.

Nick holds salmon in a similar regard, and when you look at her salmon sculptures you can see that each one is unique. A different design on the skin, scales of differing size, shape and colour — she does this deliberately to show these totemic fish at different times in their valuable life cycle.

Visit www.artjunction.ca for more information.

FLOATING STONE

NEIL CLIFFORD,MOUNTAIN GALLERIES AT THE FAIRMONT

"Neil's work has an intellectual undercurrent, forcing the viewer to consider our connection to nature and our fragile environment. Most of our visitors are in awe of his work and are always compelled to touch it with affection and curiosity," said Liz Peacock, gallery manager at Mountain Galleries at the Fairmont.

Clifford integrates his love of the Canadian wilderness with the man-made kayak in his "kayak and granite series," which are a handpicked combination of bronze and granite. Whistler, with its proximity to the ocean and its abundance of lakes, is the perfect place to showcase an artist who has a deep connection to the outdoors. He sources his materials while scouting rapids on wild rivers, hiking through forests and snowshoeing shorelines, choosing each one for its natural beauty and the story it conveys to the viewer.

Visit www.mountaingalleries.com for more information.

CONTINUING A TRADITION

BEAU DICK, BLACK TUSK GALLERY

Beau Dick comes from a long line of carvers who have fought hard to further and keep alive the culture of the Kwakwaka'wakw Nation. Originally from Alert Bay, located near the northern tip of Vancouver Island, Dick moved to Vancouver to complete high school and continued his carving.

Under the tutelage of his grandfather and father, Dick took part in the carving and painting of the world's tallest totem pole, which stands at 173 feet in Alert Bay. Heavily influenced by the mythology, storytelling and dancing ceremonies of his ancestral people, Dick's masks are theatrical and dramatic. His fearsome pieces of art reflect the dark nature of some of the tales passed down through generations.

The "Pugwis" mask that hangs on the wall at Black Tusk Gallery links to the tale of the "wild man." Dick represents him with the traditional deep, round-eyed sockets, beak-like nose, prominent brow and large mouth. It is said that although shy and diminutive in nature, if a human accepts food from a Pugwis, they become one themselves — doomed to wander eternally.

Visit www.blacktusk.ca for more information.

SCULPTURES WITH SPIRIT

PENNY EDER, WHITE DOG STUDIO GALLERY

Penny Eder came from humble beginnings — her first materials being Ivory soap, papier-mâché and half-cured cement. Reaching adulthood, her childhood forays into sculpting were put on hold, but the art form was never far from her mind. Her path back to working with her hands came when she couldn't find a tile pattern for her home, so she opted to make her own. From there, Eder expanded into a career completing custom tile work.

When asked which work of sculpture best connects her with Whistler, her answer is immediate — "Ursus Intrawestus." The seven-foot, fiberglass Kermode Spirit Bear currently resides at the Roundhouse Lodge on Whistler Mountain, where it greets thousands of visitors from all over the world. Eder was selected to paint and embellish the bear, so she set to work. She added ski goggles, boots and painted the body in a way that highlights all the adventures that Whistler is known for. As people love this bear so much, Eder has made mantle-top versions that can be found at White Dog Studio Gallery for those hoping to take him into their own homes.

Visit www.whitedogwhistler.com for more information

"Ember" by Matt Devine, Whistler Village Art Gallery