What: The Art of Tazara
Where: MY Millennium Place — Upstairs Gallery
When: Sept. 1-30, Artist reception Saturday, Sept. 17, 2-6 p.m.
I met Tazara Lopes for the first time in October 2003. She was five years old, a precocious little thing with long blond ponytails and running shoes with little red lights in the soles that blinked when she walked.
I wasn’t there to baby-sit her. I was there to interview her. The wide-eyed kindergarten student was about to open her first signature art show in the community gallery space in the upstairs foyer at Millennium Place.
She laid her artistic philosophy out for me as we strolled to the playground to ride the swings and dangle from the monkey bars.
Her favourite colour was pink. She liked to draw fairy princesses. And when she grew up she wanted to be just like mom.
Two years later Tazara is a few inches taller, her jack-o-lantern smile indicates recent visits from the tooth fairy and her monkey bar swinging skills have progressed to the point where she would give King Louie from the Jungle Book a run for his money.
Other than that, not much has changed.
She’s still into fairy princesses, even though cows and mermaids have also made it onto the favourite things to draw list. Her favourite colour is still pink. She still wants to be just like her very hip mom, and starting Thursday, Sept. 1, she launches her second signature art show in the Millennium Place gallery.
A bit of a clarification is in order. While both shows have been presented under the title The Art Of Tazara, the vibrant canvases are actually collaborations between Tazara and her mother Cary Campbell-Lopes, a painter and graphic artist working out of the family’s home in Black Tusk Village.
A few years back Cary took a rather dull and uninspiring forest scene destined for the paint-over pile and gave the canvas to her daughter to do with as she wished. The scene was soon populated with happy figures, drawn definitively with black Sharpie marker. Cary filled them in with bright paint and the once dull, foreboding scene was transformed for the better.
The effect was so appealing Cary began creating background canvases with the purpose of giving them to Tazara. Snow scenes received smiling skiers and snowboarders. Grinning Tinkerbell’s flitted around in lush pink skies.
A collection of Tazara and Cary’s works built up in the home studio, leading to the first showing of The Art of Tazara in 2003.
The art, like life, has continued since then. A series of cards printed with Tazara’s designs are for sale at the family’s Farmer’s Market booth. The mother-daughter duo collaborated on a mural for the Franz’s Trail shopping area in Creekside earlier this year and Tazara’s second show at MY Place will feature several large new works. The exhibition will include hangers handcrafted from junior skis airbrushed into eye candy by dad Paulo Lopes – another artist working from the family home in Black Tusk. Rounding out the crew is 12-year-old sister Kianna, who also draws and paints.
With her exceptional talent mixed with buoyant enthusiasm, it’s not a stretch to consider Tazara’s continued progression as an artist. Mom is already starting to coach her into ditching the Sharpie pen for a palate.
It’s a bittersweet progression for Cary. Tazara’s current medium is directly tied to her age. It won’t be long before Tazara is too "good" to draw on her mom’s canvases anymore – ice-skating cows, mermaids grinning ear to ear, cartoon fairy princesses fading away with the childhood innocence that thought them up in the first place.
But while the kitschy-cool style on display with the current Art of Tazara may not be long for this world, Whistler will certainly be watching to see what the little girl who had two signature art shows before she turned eight will do next.
Tazara’s mentor and hero can’t even say for sure what that might be.
"She always likes to take what I do one step further," Cary says, shaking her head in disbelief tempered by pride. "She completely likes to do her own thing."
The Art Of Tazara will be in the gallery through the month of September, with a reception scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 17 from 2 to 6 p.m. The reception for the original Art Of Tazara in 2003 was an interactive family-friendly affair featuring a large-scale canvas for all visiting kids to draw on, Tazara-style. The piece was eventually donated to Spring Creek School.
For more information on events at Millennium Place call 604-935-8410.