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VASA gallery exhibits astonishing diversity

The Christmas Show runs until Saturday, January 28 while VASA's inaugural all-ages Festive Open House takes place Saturday, December 10
Bev Bunker, a St. Albert based realism visual artist, showcases Spring Bouqet at the VASA Christmas Show on until Jan. 28, 2023.

Christmas is coming and art lovers are treating themselves to that special piece they’ve admired for so long. The Visual Arts Society Association (VASA) opened their Christmas Show on Dec. 1 and it should be a stop on everyone’s holiday shopping list. 

The gallery has gained a lot of attention through the years for showcasing established regional artists as well as introducing some of the best upcoming visual artists. But it’s the imaginative talent and diversity of styles that make it difficult to pick a favourite. This year 18 visual artists are hanging their original works. 

Visitors can expect to see pieces depicted in a range of paintings from hyper realism resembling photographs to broad abstracts that encourage viewers to devise their own interpretation. Within the broad range of styles, a painting’s subject matter wanders from nature to political statements to mental health issues. The exhibition also features one-of-a-kind glass jewelry and loom-woven products. 

Bruce Thompson, a regular exhibitor since the gallery opened in 2005, features Trail Before the Rain, a trodden but impressive looking landscape depicted in bold colours and bold strokes. Next to him is Marg Overing, a whimsical artist who joined VASA this month. Her Christmas Snowscape brings to life two Snowpeople dressed in top hats, scarves and carrot noses. 

On the other hand, veteran artist Bruce Allen, reveals his three-part series titled Rock Outcrops.  

“It’s trees and rocks, but it’s fantastic. You see his sense of humour. I call it his Group of Seven period. He was very influenced by it,” said VASA’s vice-president Miles Constable. 

Bradley W, also a new member from Morinville, experiments from watercolour abstracts to oils in a more realistic style. Many of his abstract pieces were inspired by emotions, events and feelings said the artist. 

But while driving from here to Lac La Biche he spotted a natural setting that inspired him to paint in a more realistic style. 

“It’s called Big Valley after the TV show. I think I just wanted to prove I could paint in a more realistic style,” Bradley W said. 

In the main hall, floral painter Bev Bunker’s Spring Bouquet immediately catches the eye. The flowers – roses, lilies, carnations, chrysanthemums and baby’s breath – are so realistic one can almost smell their fragrance. 

“It was my bouquet. My husband bought it as a birthday gift,” said Bunker. “I always try to capture the beauty, the essence, the transparency and how they unfold when they open.” 

Constable, a former Greenpeace member who occupied Ontario Hydro in 1977 because the plant was not releasing relevant documents, has now taken up the torch for Ukraine. His politically conscious painting Slava Ukrayini, is an abstract splash of varying shades of blue and yellow, colours of the Ukrainian flag. 

“I have sympathy with Ukraine. I started with something darker, but I wasn’t comfortable with it. I spray painted it with acrylic media and this works,” Constable said. 

Doris Charet’s Up On the Hill is a mixed media painting that leaves the impression of tilted tree growing on a hill. 

“Doris is very imaginative, and she works in different styles. She goes above and beyond. She’s used a lot of synthetic colours not in the environment, but there is balance and harmony.” 

In a completely different mindset, mosaic artist Carol Donald went through a dark period in her life. She contributed a mono print titled Rage and another titled Nowhere Left to Go. Both convey the explosive emotions associated with anger, frustration and depression. 

Instead Indigenous artist Penelope Moon Walker brings magic to VASA through Bear, a side profile of a brown bear surrounded by what appears to be golden fairy dust. 

“What really makes this different is how well the artist draws the eye and that eye is exquisite,” said Constable. 

In a departure from paintings, Kimberley Smith sells kiln-fired glass necklaces and mixed media jewelry. In addition, Hélène Giguère introduces her original loom-woven tapestries, place mats, coasters, wool scarves and neck warmers. 

In closing Constable said, “This exhibition is as easily diverse as all our member shows and the quality is high. Some of the artists are more experienced than others, but all are here because they want to create art." 

As part of the holiday season, VASA also ushers in their inaugural Festive Open House on Saturday, December 10 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. This is a special all-ages occasion designed to enjoy craft-making, conversation, cookies, refreshments and a door prize. 

Visitors are asked to bring a donation for St. Albert Food Bank. VASA is located at 25 Sir Winston Churchill Ave.  

Anna Borowiecki

About the Author: Anna Borowiecki

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