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    Categories: Arts & Culture

HouseGo show a treat for all audiences

Realist painter Tammy Taylor lovers her animals. Check out Feathers and Fur now on display at VASA.

Ken HouseGo is one of those artists who comes along and makes art not only engaging, fun and interesting. It’s also really good: steeped in not only art history but also the artist’s own psychology and personal life.

His sculptures are like thought maps that meld his penchant for trinket collecting with all of the traditions of folk art overlaid on top of them. Hopefully, his art students at Grande Prairie Regional College truly appreciate him for what he has to offer them.

In short, you have to see his new show called The Prairies, The Maritimes and A Few Lakes. It’s a bit of an oblique title for something that I consider to be more profound. It might sound like a series of landscape works but it’s far more wonderful than that.

As for HouseGo himself, he thinks of it as a way to preserve his legacy.

“I wrote in my journal that when it’s all said and done, I want to be remembered as an artist who used to teach at an art college, not an art college instructor who used to make art,” he said. “I’m repositioning myself.”

He has spent the better part of the last decade on that journey. It’s been a long time coming to get this show ready and it works as part retrospective and part testament to that ideal he holds so dear.

The show features a series of multimedia sculptures that combine both abstract and concrete images, with embedded objects and icons of farming and fishing seamlessly fused into single pieces. His works are almost childlike in how colourful and patchwork-y they seem but there’s a method to the man’s creative madness:

Everything goes in, even the stuff he just found on the ground, including antlers or lobster claws. Somehow, it all fits into his overall narrative about the important places in his life, even reaching to the viewer’s own connection to this land and its diverse geographies.

An excellent example is Pioneer, which looks like a moon. It’s one of his more successful pieces in terms of what he wants to accomplish, he explains. He calls it production art.

“Objects. If objects happen, it’ll happen. What I learned is … I’ve been cannibalizing my own art for years. Any leftover art, I’ve saved it. Sometimes, art takes 15, 20 years to make. What happens is it’s not relevant to where my mind is at but I’m using it.”

The show opens at the gallery tomorrow with an opening reception to be held from 6 to 9 p.m. as part of the September ArtWalk, the last of the season. HouseGo will be in attendance. A walk-through tour will take place on Sept. 21 during the lunch hour.

Horses and dogs and bears, oh yes

Tammy Taylor seems to take a page out of the Robert Bateman book of art: try to make it resemble the animal as closely as possible. What the artist herself sees on her own canvases is vastly different, however.

“When I look at my work, I cannot help but see an extension of myself. It is in many ways the story of my life. There is always a connection to someone I know, something I love or something I have done or seen. Art is not just my passion but becomes an outlet for me to visually document what I am passionate about and who I am,” she said.

The Visual Arts Studio Association has her new show called Fur and Feathers, a wonderful look at the self-taught artist’s zoocentric oeuvre.

She admits the Bateman inspiration, hoping that she portrays her subjects with warmth and vitality as well.

“It is very important to me that I am accurate in details so that I can create lifelike images, but I also try to capture something in my subjects that is unexpected. Something that personifies the animal in a way that we can relate to. Something that evokes an emotion or memory. I enjoy showing ‘the other side’ of an animal, like a wolf resting that looks so at peace and even cuddly which is such a contradiction to its wild, predatory nature.”

There’s much to enjoy with Taylor’s show, which opened yesterday. An opening reception will be held tomorrow with the September ArtWalk from 6 to 9 p.m. Taylor will be in attendance. It runs until Sat., Sept. 30.

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.