As people circulate through the Whistler Conference Centre this Cornucopia weekend, wine glasses at the ready, they'll also have the opportunity to feast their eyes on some new paintings by a talented artist with roots here in Whistler.
Michelle Yamamoto has been tapped to be the solo exhibiting artist at both Crush grand tasting galas, with eight new pieces to be put on display in the grand foyer on Friday and Saturday evening. Her subject matter typically focuses on surfing and Buddha, a fusion of athleticism and ancient Eastern philosophy if you will. But for her upcoming Crush exhibit, Yamamoto's work has evolved yet again, moving away from her "Buddha and Surf" and "Yinspiration Surf Art" collections and depicting the female form, instead.
"I wanted a really elegant series to complement the elegance of the event," she explained.
Originally from Kamloops, Yamamoto actually spent a considerable amount of time living in Asia - over the span of 12 years she lived in China, Malaysia and the Philippines - with many of those Asian influences shining through in her work.
"It was January 2001 and I was watching CNN in London, England, and we saw five bombs going off simultaneously too near the house for the second time in six months."
She knew it was time to come back to Canada and as an avid skier, kite boarder and biker, was naturally drawn to Whistler's mountains. She lived here for seven years, developing a strong network of lifelong friends and connections within the community.
"I've got a really, really tight circle of friends up there and my friends are everything to me," she said.
With a formal background in commercial design and advertising, Yamamoto is essentially self-taught, but has had a lifelong interest in art.
"My first studio was under the basement stairs when I was six," she recalled, "I used to keep my little sketches in a file box."
Living overseas and unable to work, Yamamoto was encouraged to pursue her artistic interests, honing her drawing and painting abilities through a series of classes and practice. She eventually attended the Vancouver Academy of Art, where she studied classical portrait drawing, watercolour portrait painting and Boku Jazz, a form of Zen brush painting, with artist Ari Tomita.
"The secret to a good painting is starting with a good drawing," she said.
"...Ari Tomita, she taught me about using energy, using your personal energy to flow through the brush."
Meditation practice and the yoga community here in Whistler actually inspired her to paint more Buddha. Unlike many other artists in the community, she wasn't inspired to paint the mountains.