Thursday, November 22, 2012

Crawling for Culture on Vancouver's East Side

Parker Street Studios attracted many
spectators during the 2012
Eastside Culture Crawl in Vancouver
(Photo: Paul Niemi)
Now that the Thanksgiving turkey, mash, casseroles and pie have all been digested, I can finally sit down to write about something that I think is really cool--The Eastside Culture Crawl that took place last Friday, Saturday and Sunday on Vancouver, British Columbia's east side.  The Culture Crawl was established to provide "opportunities for member artists to engage with the public through the creation of events, programming and partnerships that foster awareness, encourage visibility and promote artists and their work."

This event is really wonderful.  Why? One: It's in Vancouver, which is practically my second home (I have a dear friend's housekeys so I can come and go as I like!). Two: The Culture crawl offers a glimpse into the exciting variety of art that is being made north of the border. Three: I love to walk in Vancouver, and with a digital or printed map in hand, spectators can roam the East Vancouver grid to multiple locations where hundreds of artist studios are located.  You get to excercise your mind with colors, textures and lines while you get a good aerobic workout!

It's also an opportunity to see and be seen with some of the prettiest people in Vancouver. I mean, seriously...are there any unattractive people in British Columbia?  The event attracted close to 15,000 people, so walking the narrow and long hallways of buildings like Parker Street Studios (1000 Parker Street) or the Mergatroid Building (975 Vernon Drive), required patience and stamina to handle the constant barrage of people nearly bumping into you either climbing the stairs or walking the corridors. Attendees seemed happy, enthusiastic, and excited to buy original art. I saw many things that I would loved to have added to my art collection.  Nonetheless, I allowed myself to remain merely a spectator, content to be wearing some sensible shoes, schlepping around an umbrella in the torrential downpour, and breathing in the marvelous scent of creativity in the air.

The Eastside Culture Crawl had its official start in 1997, though it was born out of previous smaller shows with different names.  That year, the Culture Crawl featured 45 artists in 3 different studios.  It attracted 1000 people.   Now, it has grown to feature over 300 artists in 75 buildings throughout East Vancouver.  Where else can you go and see practically every type of medium in every type of style in one walkable area?  It's pretty incredible.

Because of my schedule, I only made it to 4 of the venues (Parker Street Studios, Octopus Studios, the Mergatroid Building and William Clark Studios), but there was a plethora of terrific art to see and cool people to meet.  Here are some of my favorites:

Piece by Sean Karemaker
(Photo: Courtesy the artist)

A portion of Sean Karemaker's work
documenting the life cycle of Human beings
can be seen above his
booth at Octopus Studios
(Photo: Paul Niemi)
Illustrative artist Sean Karemaker's work attracted my attention from far away at Octopus Studios.  His pieces have a dark, fantastical and epic quality to them.  He has a charming gentle manner, in a way that suggests that he should, perhaps, have been born before 1940. He talks quite comfortably about his work in a way a storyteller would.  I particularly enjoyed hearing him speak of how he created his 27 foot-long scroll piece on the lifespan of Human beings. Having arrived more recently to the Vancouver creative scene, his work is very affordable, including some whimsical 3D polymer figures against painted backdrops in shadowboxes.

Artist Krystian Guevara talks with
a collector as he works on a new piece
at Octopus Studios
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

While at Octopus Studios, I made my way to the back corner to check out cool new wallets by Mexican-born leather accessories designer Johanna Anaya de Guevara and paintings by her husband Krystian Guevara.  Krystian's body of work includes pieces with a dia del los muertos flair, reminiscent of his native Mexico.  His detailing is impeccable and his understanding of light along with absolute control over his paintbrush results in exquisite photo realism as seen in his Pellegrino bottle painting.  When I stopped by, Krystian was hard at work on a series capturing the weirdness and mixed emotions of subjects he found in 1920s Australian mugshots.  He realized his abilities at an early age and followed his passion to become a fine artist as well as an illustrator and cartoonist. He currently works for The Georgia Straight in that capacity.

Beata Kacy in her booth at
Octopus Studios during
the Eastside Culture Crawl
(Photo: Paul Niemi)
I'm a sucker for people who are true Bohemians--the kind of creatives who can sew, weave, silversmith, or do almost anything.  A gentle soul, Polish-born Beata Kacy of Soigne jewelry, accessories and spa is one of those individuals. She is not afraid to be different--from what she wears to the designs that she creates.  What I appreciated most about the variety of pieces that she offered in her studio was that she understands how to appeal to a myriad of customers.  Beata featured great holiday gift items in a variety of price points and everything was totally unique. From handmade metal and leather pendants to felted shawls, rings and more, it was obvious that her love for art and her mind for creating is limitless!  

"Eyebots" made from wood, flocking and tubing alongside
other wood carvings in Colin Johnson's Vancouver, B.C. studio
(Photo: Paul Niemi)

To those who know me, it's no secret that I love a little humor in my art, and a bit of kitsch goes a long way.  I especially appreciate it when I know that the artist is also a master at his craft.  Such is the case with woodworker Colin Johnson (a.k.a "The Woodbutcher").  Johnson studied animation and he brings that into his work, whether he is making an awesome Star Wars-inspired liquor cabinet or his "Eyebots," one of which I must get my hands on because they appeal to both my childlike side and my sense of humor.  What I like the most is that he has no ego, which adds to the dimension of his art.

An artist who has been in over 70 group and solo shows in the last 10 years is Mary Anne Tateishi.  What initially drew me to her studio was all of the wonderful color.  I also have a love and appreciation for artists who can successfully work with resin, a very difficult medium.  You have to be meticulous and know what you are doing.  Tateishi (please forgive the pun!) clearly does.  She paints 10 to 20 layers of paint on thin paper affixed to panel.  She creates "a visual history" and then excavates it to see what happened beneath. The final step is to coat the pieces in resin which augments the vibrancy of the layers and colors.   Tateishi was a master of welcoming collectors into her studio with open arms creating a warm environment where you wanted to linger and chat for a while.
Last, but not least, are the sculptural and textural paintings by Christina Norberg that I love, love , love!  Her work is artistically and ecologically thoughtful since she uses recycled post-consumer waste such as newspaper, cardboard, magazines, packaging, and clothing.

Eco-friendly artist Christina Norberg
poses with her work at the Eastside Culture Crawl
in Vancouver, B.C.
Focused primarily on how Humanity develops in the natural world that surrounds it, Norberg's art is made by layering paint (acrylics that are made locally in Vancouver) and incorporating drawings, collages and fibre.  

"Manifesting" by Christina Norberg
(Photo: Courtesy the artist)
Norberg is influenced by design, craft, architecture, street art, and nature among others. I found her work completely unique and some of the most exciting that I had the opportunity to view during the Eastside Culture Crawl.
Overall, there was something for everyone at the Eastside Culture Crawl.  I was very impressed with all the different price points.  Now that I know what to expect, I'm heading north next year with cash in hand and ready to buy.  See you there!  

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