Focus on family

Hanser's They Never Told Me.
— image credit: COURTESY OF PDA

Exploring your family history isn’t always so easy, but it can be therapeutic.

Take the ARTforce Collective, a group of mature female artists from Vancouver who a few years ago decided to launch a joint exhibit based on a common theme: How their lives had been influenced by the past.

A few of the members already had a few pieces to contribute but, as they prepared for the display at Coquitlam’s Place des Arts, they dug deeper into their genealogy.

“And what we found was the good, the bad and the ugly,” Alannah Anderson said.

Anderson’s installation centres on her grandparents’ life during the Great Depression in Maple Creek, Sask., which was captured on a Kodak Eastman Brownie camera.

For Mary Blaze, she created a collage from an old, water-stained roll of building paper that her husband wanted to throw out.

Her work includes drawings from her sketch books as well as images of her dad’s lantern and her mom’s lamp.

Meanwhile, Sherry Cooper has a series of paintings called Seedlings of Hope on Gambier Island, where her family used to have a summer cabin.

She delves into the property’s past — a journey that was “insightful and full of unexpected discoveries,” she writes in her artist’s statement.

Bernadine Fox has a painting titled The Family Way, in which she recreates a 1957 photo of two parents with three boys. She surrounds them with graffiti-like text that recounts what happened to each over the next half century: the alcoholic father leaves, the mother gets hooked on drugs and their children end up in foster care.

It is based on a true story.

Joy Hanser’s series is motivated by her 92-year-old father’s illness. She strives to honour her dad and other relatives.

“Perhaps the most astonishing surprise in this project is how much I am learning about myself and the family,” Hanser writes in her artist’s statement. “It calls for both boldness and humility, and a large dose of self- skepticism, to portray my own interpretations of the lives of these others.”

Finally, Sheila Page’s A Family at Sea explores her childhood in Howe Sound in the 1950s.

She moved to the Sunshine Coast in 1966 and returned there to work as an elementary school teacher from the early 1970s to 2002.

Anderson said she hopes the ARTforce exhibit will prompt viewers to examine their own heritage.

“We all have different pasts but what do they mean?” she asked, adding, “It’s important to share stories.”

• The opening reception for Shaped by the Past, a multi-media exhibit by ARTforce Collective, is Thursday at 7 p.m. at Place des Arts (1120 Brunette Ave., Coquitlam). Nino Dobrosavljevic will also launch his oil on canvas series, called Tribute to Arts. Both displays run until March 16.





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