A 'Cotton Candy' residency

Shari Pratt at PMAC - JANIS WARREN/the tri-city newS
Shari Pratt at PMAC
— image credit: JANIS WARREN/the tri-city newS

In the makeshift studio Shari Pratt has been working in for the past two-and-a-half months, there’s a lot of light and space — perfect for painter.

There’s also plenty of activity: Not only from the car and foot traffic outside on St. John’s Street but also inside the Port Moody Arts Centre that commissioned Pratt to be its first visual artist in residence, a gig that ends Saturday.

Her Cotton Candy Friends series has drawn many curious visitors since the Maple Ridge resident started the acrylic and mixed media project on Aug. 23, said PMAC gallery co-ordinator Susan Jessop during an interview last Friday.

Most people — sometimes with children — stay a minimum of 15 minutes, chatting with Pratt and other PMAC staff about the painting process and watching her create; many have never seen an artist ply his or her craft live.

Pratt, who has a bachelor’s of education degree from UBC, specifically tailored to art education, loves the interaction. They ask about her series, how it came about and its designs and colours.

And Pratt will usually tell them something like this: Cotton Candy Friends is based on a collection of photographs submitted by Tri-City residents via social media, namely Facebook.

She gathered 30 pictures — many of them after the Port Moody Festival of the Arts’ Art 4 U day at PMAC in September — and whittled her selection down to 15 for her show, which opens next week (Disclosure: this reporter’s submission of her kids was accepted for the exhibit).

Pratt printed off the 15 portraits in black and white so she wouldn’t be influenced by the colours and could interpret the images as she wanted.

For example, a group of young men got shrunk to two subjects in leather jackets, looking at the viewer; a Golden Spike Days can can dancer was depicted in the style of Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec; and sheet music (to resemble a lullaby) was placed above the picture of a father cradling his newborn girl.

After spending several weeks on each painting — usually working on four or five at a time — “I really felt like I got to know the people, even though it’s not an exact representation,” Pratt said, adding, “I’m looking forward to meeting all of them when the show opens, and seeing if my instincts were right.”

Pratt said she has loved her time in the 3D Gallery at PMAC. Last year, she was an artist-in-residence in Victoria; she plans to apply for a residency next year, outside of Rome, Italy, next year to create another figurative series.

Painting from snapshots — especially those from the 1920s-40s era — is her forte. “I use found photos,” Pratt said. “People learn about my work and they just send me their pictures through my Facebook site.”

She currently has an exhibit at the Fort Gallery (9048 Glover Rd., Fort Langley), running until Nov. 12, portraying blank-faced military men. And in April, Pratt will open a show about sisters and the bonds women share at Coquitlam’s Place des Arts.

As for the title of her PMAC residency collection, Cotton Candy Friends, Pratt said she borrowed it from Vanessa Van Petten of radicalparenting.com, who coined the phrase to mean “temporary friends” gathered online, especially by young people who reach out via social networking.

In her residency proposal, Pratt noted: “A Cotton Candy friend doesn’t offer a whole lot of substance to your life so what has accumulating all of these online friends done to define our social identities? Or have we just found a new way to create imaginary friends as adults?” she questions.

• The opening reception for Shari Pratt’s Cotton Candy Friends is Thursday, Nov. 15 from 6 to 8 p.m. at the Port Moody Arts Centre (2425 St. John’s St.). Admission is free. The show runs until Dec. 21. The facility is open Monday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.




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