Young artists exhibited at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery

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An exhibition of works by young artists at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery offers a glimpse into the kaleidoscopic perspectives of the first generation born in the 21st century.

The SHOUT OUT exhibition features mixed media artwork by contributors aged 2-18. Each year, young people from the Sunshine Coast are invited to submit two creations to the gallery for the popular show. Members of the gallery’s curatorial committee and its volunteers organize and hang the exhibits.

The exhibition includes individual and collaborative submissions as well as projects inspired by classroom initiatives.

A series of sculptures made by students at Cedar Grove Elementary School evoke steampunk goggles. The glasses, fashioned from paper clips, shells and household bric-a-brac, transform their wearers into visionaries eager to transform themselves.

Zia Johnson, an eight-year-old student in Sea to Sky Outdoor School’s Forest Friends program, worked with classmates Goldie, Isla and Giselle. Their piece, City Cats, was fashioned from acrylic paint, felt, glue and tape.

“We thought it would be cute to have them [the cats] on a brick wall,” Johnson said. “I don’t really know how we got to the cats, but we thought it was important for them to touch the cats.”

The tails of two of Johnson’s cats, which are shaded in intricate patterns, are affectionately grazing. Facing a starry sky, the felines draw the viewer’s gaze towards the cosmos. “I didn’t think I was going to do this,” she said. “I don’t like to draw very much.”

Although dancing is Johnson’s main craft – she appeared in December’s Nutcracker performance by the Sunshine Coast Youth Dance Association – she has found a way to translate her instinct for movement into the inky gyrations that fill his web. Attentive visitors will notice the names of two pets hidden in the Escher-like drawings.

References to the animal kingdom are common throughout the exhibit, from the whiskered furry face exploding through three-dimensional newsprint in Ayla Suffron’s Newspaper Burst to Keeli Gower’s herd of placid sheep in Sheep Crossing. London Allcock’s Salmon School expresses the scarlet frenzy of a West Coast spawning stream, while the long-necked, languid equines of Sophia James’ Horse Life inhabit peaceful pastures.

There are subtle pop culture influences, like in the manga-style painting Narato Uzumaki by Indra Bains, and a clay rendering by rapper Travis Scott (Demon and Travis Scott, by Cedar Grove School’s Che). Anthropomorphic representations, when they appear, are distorted or distended, as in Spencer McIntosh’s Untitled, a humanoid whose exposed musculature dwarfs a miniature head.

The face of the female figure in Sharlene Johnson’s painting Missing and Murdered is obliterated by a blood-red handprint. Athena Qureshi’s acrylic work Fall from Grace features a reclining nude with shaded skin, simultaneously at rest and tormented.

A written submission by 12-year-old Cole Turner of Gibsons Elementary School is one of the few works to highlight textual elements (another is Grow Tall and Stay Strong, inspirational dinosaur posters by Milo Stahl and Isabelle). Turner’s poem Four Seasons personifies the passage of time: “Think of that time when autumn comes, trapping the grass with / the leaves that have forsaken.”

“At the start of our school day in sixth grade, we were reading someone’s poem and circling all the interesting words,” said Turner, who visited the gallery – still in uniform – after returning from a retreat with the Sechelt. army cadets. “When I imagine people reading my poem, I want them to think and say wow, that’s really good, and learn that sometimes little things make the world beautiful.”

The SHOUT OUT exhibition remains at the Gibsons Public Art Gallery until March 20.

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