(On the occasion of International Women's Day, a post about a woman I admire.)
As a fan and independent collaborator of sorts to Studio Sixty Six (since the artspace613 Self Storage Art Show in 2016), I am intrigued by the uniqueness of what Carrie Colton has done for the visual arts community in Ottawa. Her current exhibition, Foundations | Futures is, semantically speaking, a pivotal moment for the gallery – and possibly for art in Ottawa. The exhibition showcases the gallery’s 2018 artists and general growth while setting up the gallery’s pending move to a larger, more centrally-located venue on Bank Street in the Glebe.
Gallery Director Carrie Colton started Studio Sixty Six in 2013, after many years working as a professional artist and designer in Ottawa and Montreal, in an effort to create a different kind of commercial gallery space - one that she felt was respectful to its artists and accessible to its audience.
As a founding partner at Exposure Gallery in 2009, along with Sheila Whyte of Thyme and Again, Carrie Colton curated the gallery, which was dedicated to contemporary art photography for the first two years of its operation, contributing strongly to the burgeoning, arts-infused cultural landscape of Wellington Street West. Fast-forward to 2013, when the opportunity arose, Carrie opened Studio Sixty Six, carving out a niche for the gallery as one that is “dedicated to Ottawa’s newest and brightest creators,” and to experiment with work that is not shown anywhere else in the city. As this concept evolved, a series of group shows were tied together by specific mediums - New Painters, New Photographers, and New Printmakers. Solo exhibitions followed, providing a more complete "first show” experience for both the artists and gallery customers alike.
Studio Sixty Six is known for its community involvement, dedication to physical accessibility, and a focus on both cultural and artistic diversity. Carrie's vision of a space that showcases unique, thought-provoking (and often pioneering) art by emerging Canadian artists has grown from her passion and involvement in the arts community in Ottawa. Throughout the years, the exhibitions have maintained focus on the artists, their materials, processes, concepts and inspirations.
I was able to ask Carrie Colton about the new - and last - show at the Muriel Street location, the move, and what’s next:
n: Foundations | Futures is such an interesting title for your first show of 2018. It speaks to your gallery's genesis. What foundations and futures are you referring to specifically?
CC: 4.5 years ago Studio Sixty Six was founded at 66 Muriel St. Unit 202, a wonderful space, yet in an off-the-beaten-path location. This is where we established our plan to exhibit and support new, up-and-coming, emerging Canadian artists. Studio Sixty Six is now well received and well established. We are excited and ready to move to a more central downtown location to provide our artists with greater exposure and to further increase our profile within the Ottawa market.
n: How does this show set up the gallery's move to the new location at Bank & Fifth in the Glebe?
CC: This show features the Studio Sixty Six artists (both emerging and some more established Canadian artists) that we are committed to supporting and showing in our new location – and in carefully curated shows over the course of 2018. It's also an opportunity for us all to say a heart-felt thank you and goodbye to our beloved 66 Muriel studio space that has served us well during the first few years.
n: Studio Sixty Six is four and half years old. If you think back to your early days, what purpose were you hoping your gallery would serve? Is that still true today?
CC: In the first few years I was interested in adding something new to the visual arts cultural landscape of Ottawa. My motivations were also very much to help Ottawa and Canadian artists by providing another professional exhibition space to show their work and to offer them programmes to support their careers in the form of advice, editing of artist texts, and by providing the utmost in a respectful experience and environment. I was also testing the Ottawa art market waters to see if they would be receptive to new, modern and pioneering works of art. As it turns out, yes! They were! Ottawa is super cool and ready for the best of the best of everything culturally i.e., food, music, museums, fashion and art, as I believed Ottawa would be! And yes all of these purposes are still relevant today and going forward.
n: What are your thoughts on the arts scene in Ottawa and where does Studio Sixty Six fit in today? What excites you most about art in Ottawa?
CC: I think the Ottawa art scene has become more and more cutting edge and vibrant in the past five years, with the opening of other small and potent art spaces, spaces such as Central Art Garage, Possible Worlds, Seven Below Gallery, PDA Projects, etc.; and now with the newly renovated Ottawa Art Gallery about to open in the spring, these are extremely exciting artistic times for Ottawa!
n: What will your first show be at the new location? What will 2018 look like for Studio Sixty Six?
CC: Our inaugural exhibition at our new location, 858 Bank Street, Unit 102, will feature award-winning, Vancouver Island, fine art photographer Troy Moth and talented Ottawa painter, illustrator Yvonne Wiegers. Both artists’ stunningly beautiful, modern work is concerned with addressing their mutual passions for our world's precious environments: the animals, resources and people. We chose these two artists to introduce our gallery at its new location in part because their work is relevant to our commitment and focus on the planet this Earth Day, April 22nd. An important day if there ever was one! We will continue to share our artists’ work through win-win relationships with other community businesses such as Magpie and the Ottawa Art Gallery via their Sales and Rental programme. In general, we are excited to work with the Bank Street BIA and all the other wonderful retailers along Bank Street.
Foundations | Futures Exhibition
ARTISTS: GABRIELA AVILA-YIPTONG, AMY BARKER, JULIA CAMPISI, CHRISTIAN CHAPMAN, JORDAN CLAYTON, KRISTINA CORRE, MARISA GALLEMIT, ANNA GRIFFITHS, LEA HAMILTON, LILLY KOLTUN, LESIA MARUSCHAK, LORI BRETHOUR COULTER, JUDY MORRIS DUPONT, TROY MOTH, SUSAN ROSTON, ALLYSON ROUSSEAU, KATHRYN SHRIVER, PATRICE STANLEY, JO SWIM, RUTH STEINBERG, GUILLERMO TREJO, VERONICA WATERFALL, YVONNE WIEGERS, FLORENCE YEE.
Yvonne Wiegers and Troy Moth will be the featured artists for Studio Sixty Six’s inaugural exhibition in the new space.
Troy Moth is a photographer and film director who is best known for his equally breathtaking and haunting images of Western and Northern Canada. After leaving a successful career in fashion photography, he describes his true path as follows: “I’ve photographed wild bison in Yellowstone, tracked feral horses through the Dakotas, hung out with a grizzly bear in Montana, and went on a hike with a wolf in British Columbia. Most importantly, the images I’m showing people are the images I’m passionate about, the things I want people to see and fall in love with. Instead of helping people fall in love with material goods, I’m showing them lovers in the sky. I think my 18-year old self would approve.”
Yvonne Wiegers is a Governor General Medal nominee. She is known for her contemplative, hand-drawn images, paintings and sculptures. Her work centers on themes of population, individuality, swarm behaviour, the obsession of material accumulation, ideas about infinity, her fascination with the discovery of new species, the power of observation and her meditation practice.
The inaugural exhibition at the new Studio Sixty Six Gallery is slated to open on April 13th, 2018. Everyone is invited.
Where: Studio Sixty Six
When: April 13, 2018 ⋄ 6-9PM
858 Bank St., Suite 102, Ottawa, Ontario K1S 3W3
Phone: 613.800.1641 office, 613.355.0359 cell
By Myka Burke
Artist Paul Villinski has been working with discarded debris for almost twenty years now. He began exploring waste as an artistic medium after seeking treatment for alcohol and drug addiction. In particular, the empty beer cans he would see on the streets of New York City affected him. He started collecting them and eventually created beautiful works of art with them. Villinski has been quoted as saying he is “fascinated by the simple alchemy of transforming humble, discarded materials into things of beauty and layered meaning.” Fast forward twenty years and the painter who first began exploring sculpture by extending his two dimensional paintings into three dimensional pieces by adding objects in front of the paintings is now an acclaimed sculptor with a solo retrospective exhibition at the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia.
Flower Bomber and several other works of art made of recycled material were created specifically for this twenty year retrospective exhibition at the Taubman Museum of Art by Villinski and after they were loaded onto a truck outside the artist’s studio in New York City, ready to be shipped to the museum in Roanoke, Virginia – they were stolen.
Flower Bomber is a 30-foot wide scaled-to-size replica of a B-25 Bomber with the bay open and die cut flowers spilling out. It was created to hang in the stunning three-storey atrium of the Taubman Museum of Art and it took the artist roughly two years to create it. Flower Bomber is a blossom-bearing aircraft and it continues themes that the son of an Air Force navigator and Vietnam veteran has concerned himself with in the past: flight, perspective, soaring, the idea of lifting up, raising ideas to new heights and so on. His continued, dedicated use of discarded materials collected from the streets of New York City speaks to his fascination with transformation and his concern for the environment.
After the theft of Flower Bomber and since the opening of the exhibition was pending, a substitute for Flower Bomber had to be found. The equally uplifting piece Passage was chosen to grace the Taubman atrium in its place. Passage is a 33-foot wide glider plane skeleton that appears to be inhabited, intertwined with and guided by 1000 black aluminum butterflies; it is on loan from the Blanton Museum of Art in Austin, Texas and luckily, was already heading to the exhibition at the Taubman as a further focal point of this twenty year retrospective. Further, Passage nicely illustrates another central concern of Villinski’s, the close relationship between nature and humanity. The human-made aircraft is flying with the butterflies. The butterflies in Passage are made of aluminum from cans collected by canners, like those in the Oscar-nominated documentary Redemption, and the aircraft skeleton is made of wood collected from the streets of New York City.
Surprisingly, just before the re-curated solo retrospective exhibition opened at the Taubman Museum of Art, the stolen truck was recovered. Villinski was at the Taubman Museum helping install the exhibition when the police sought permission from the artist to unload the truck. Naturally, he agreed. The art was still crated up in the truck, buried under hundreds of old tires. It is presumed that a business tasked with the disposal of old tires stole the truck only to load it up with old tires and dump it. This type of crime is apparently quite common in New York City and referred to by police as illegal dumping.
The tragic irony of a truck filled with art made of discarded objects being stolen to illegally dispose of further unwanted items was not lost on the artist who also pointed out that, additionally, his work attempts to reach for the sky; and there it was, buried under things that have only ever touched the ground their entire lives. Villinski fittingly noted that “it is fraught in all kinds of interesting ways.”
The new date for Flower Bomber’s debut at the Taubman Museum of Art was pushed back to February 9th, 2018. When asked, Villinski did say that he would likely incorporate the story of the recovery into the new exhibition somehow, but was unsure of how exactly he might do that.
Amy Moorefield, the exhibition curator, speculates that the theft of Vilinski’s art for the purposes of illegal dumping will affect his work for years to come. A big fan, Moorefield had been wanting to work with Paul Villinski for years. She carries around a little black book with the names of artists she would love to work with and Villinski was very high up on her list. She knows his work very well. Though all did not go according to plan for the summer 2017 show at the Taubman Museum of Art, she was thankful that the twenty year retrospective exhibition was still able to happen. “The silver lining is that people now have a new opportunity to encounter Villinski’s work here at the Taubman - a new opportunity to see fascinating work by an inspiring environmental artist.”
What: Paul Villinski’s Flower Bomber
Where: City of Roanoke Atrium in the Taubman Museum of Art in Roanoke, Virginia
When: February 9, 2018 - July 12, 2020
Myka Burke is a two-time recipient of the
Canadian Ethnic Media Association Award for Radio Excellence, a Peabody Award
nominee in the Documentary Category and an internationally published doctoral
student with the University of Leipzig’s Herder Institute. She is currently
based in Ottawa and likes to write about arts and culture . Her favourite band
is Rusted Root. You can hear her on the radio Saturday mornings and catch her
on CTV Ottawa Morning Live for CHIN Radio Thursday mornings, the rest of the
time she can be found in the library or at an event. Myka Burke founded
Artspace613 in 2016.