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L.A. Beat

Artists reclaim abandoned spaces

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 L.A. Beat Photo by Richard Amery  Rick Gillis shows one of his works.Several southern Albertan artists have proved you can reclaim and beautify abandoned buildings with a new show called ‘Ruin And Reclamation.’

The show, featuring pieces from 37 different southern Alberta artists, includes variety of mediums, some really innovative works and a few rather disturbing ones like an old artistically soiled mattress scrawled with felt marked statements about love, lust and sex, which was amplified by a black light and an incense candle burning while Barry White‘s music played.

The show is in the old Leo Singer building, the site of a popular old clothing store, located  on 5th Street South, next to Express Coffee.

“This  building has been dead for  the past 10-12 years. So this show is about breathing life into dead urban spaces,” explained artist Rick Gillis during the grand opening, May 30.

Gillis is a member of the Potemkin Collective which is hosting the show from noon until  5 p.m. June 4-6 and 11-13 as well in the next couple weeks.

 Featured pieces include everything to watercolour paintings, sculptures consisting of old mattress springs, photographs  and a several pieces including found objects like an old washer and dryer set in the basement with writing on it , mirrors set to make it look like the viewer is about to fall through the floor. There are also works in the midst of completion including a moving painting of a boy reaching out to a hand reaching up from a waterfall.

“All of the art speaks to the theme of ruin and reclamation,” Gillis continued standing next to one of his pieces featuring a pensive-looking homeless man framed by old gunny sacks, dreaming of  living in the country, which is painted on an old piece of tin, while another couple pieces of tin feature haunting cityscapes  outlined in a ominous red sky. The show was open to  any artist who wished to participate as the works weren’t juried. They reflected their individual takes on the theme of ruin and reclamation.

“This street person is living in the city and cities are in a state of decay,” he said  explaining to one of numerous interested art aficionados looking at his work that cities aren‘t meant for people. 

“The minor panel (painted onto another piece of rusted tin)  depicts  his dream of living in a more pastoral and country setting. He‘s thinking of a better life,” Gillis continued emphasizing  his work  reflects hope. Local folk band the Necessities provided live entertainment for the crowd.

Artist Joanne Kaltenbruner’s work includes racks of vintage hats and clothing and photos of her friends and  familiar faces  wearing them (including  Rick Gillis, George Arsene, Henotic owner Jason Beacock  and artist Darcy Logan) was inspired by a Leo Singer designed suit she had in her collection.

“I didn’t know what to do with the suit. There‘s so much history behind it so I thought I‘d take the opportunity to let people have fun trying on the suit and the other clothes and take pictures of them,” she said, taking a few shots of an eager subject  to add to the display for next week.

“It‘s just something that had to be done,” she said.

— Richard Amery L.A. Beat

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