Sea to sky artists — and their counterparts down the road — are wrestling with a range of issues, it seems, from zombies to misbehaved bears and the burden of pennies.
The latter, especially, is a thorn in the side of Whistler artist Arne Gutmann. "They're smelly. They're redundant. They're not what they say they are," he says, referring to the soon-to-be obsolete coins.
A black wine box covered in the much-maligned pocket change sits on his dining room table. It's his contribution to "Pending Discomfort," a show he's curating at Scotia Creek Gallery featuring work painted on wine boxes.
"I don't actually have a problem with pennies," he says later with a wry smile. "I thought it would be funny. I wanted to keep it small. I like to let everybody else do it."
Pieces have been slowly trickling in from some of the 20 artists (mostly local, but a few from as far away as San Diego and Seattle) Gutmann invited to participate in the show. "I (said) the theme is 'issue' and they go, 'Issue? What does that mean?' And I go, 'Well, whatever your issue is. It's what it means to you.' Right away the light bulb goes off and they're thinking about how they're going to elaborate on the theme," he says.
Only a few boxes had been decorated and returned to him by last week, including a graphic cartoon by Adrian Raeside of a bear, um, seeking revenge on a careless homeowner, an abstract box by Taka Sudo with pieces of newspaper peaking out from black paint splattered with florescent splotches and an elaborate zombie portrait, complete with hinged doors opening to a second painting, crafted by Andy Fenwick.
Gutmann helped put together a similar show with the now-defunct Blind Mute Productions back in 2008 in which the boxes were auctioned off afterward with proceeds going to the Whistler Skateboard Association. "I started acquiring (the wine boxes) and I thought they're the greatest things ever as mediums because you're not restricted to a single dimension," he explains. "It's a multi-dimensional piece. I started working with them myself... then everybody else wanted them after that."
For Whistler artist Emily Haggar, the box served a dual purpose. Her piece features paper planes and photos of trips from around North America. "I actually used this wine box to pack up my art supplies to move to a new house during the time between the show and when Arne gave me the box," she says in an email. "It seemed quite fitting to create a piece on movement once I'd unpacked it."
Haggar combined inspiration from both the theme and the unique medium to create "a piece about restlessness, place, home and living with a restless spirit that's been happiest with movement," she adds. "Exploration and movement have always been the ways I've navigated the rough patches of my own life; I've found being on the road to be the best medicine to work through the hardest things."
The finished products are a complete surprise to Gutman, who has been blown away by the interpretation of his theme. "They get so adamant explaining it, what it means to them," he says. "The passion really comes out."
The exhibit runs from Nov. 2 to 21 at Scotia Creek Gallery with an opening reception Nov. 7 at 7 p.m.