Power dynamics in question at new CVAG exhibits

Our planet’s nations have had a long history of power struggles, often over resources, which impact the environment and its inhabitants.

A SALMAN RUSHDIE book inspired the film Midnight's Children

Our planet’s nations have had a long history of power struggles, often over resources, which impact the environment and its inhabitants.

With the recent emergence of the international Idle No More movement, which began in Canada in November, we have been asked to take a closer look at the challenges faced by First Nations Peoples of Canada and aboriginals around the globe.

We are faced with large, complex questions surrounding the power dynamics embedded in human rights and environmental legislation and the role of culture in articulating differing positions within these struggles. These questions have existed since peoples of all nations have encountered one another.

Two of the three new exhibits opening at Comox Valley Art Gallery this month explore some of these issues.

You are invited to view the artworks at the opening reception Jan. 11 from 7 to 9 p.m. Everyone is welcome, light refreshments will be served and most of the artists will be present to meet you.

All three exhibits run from Jan. 12 until March 2. Admission is free or by donation.

• In the Contemporary Gallery, Qualicum-based artist Heather Thomas exhibits In the Presence of Absence, consisting of installation, sculpture and mixed media artworks.

Thomas states that the title was inspired by the writer Mahmoud Darwish and refers to “notions of loss, memory and truth…[the] presence of absence can erupt conflicting emotions that imprint personal and collective histories. Conflict leaves a legacy of gaping absences — culture and identity among them. Absence creates discord and disrupts our view of things.”

She has worked with the notion of toxic balance as well as that of power and powerlessness. Thomas describes how her exploration and research of war-based objects, the representations of the news media and writers/philosophers has brought her to this presentation of artworks.

Thomas was born in Nova Scotia. She is an instructor of visual arts at Georges P. Vanier Secondary School in Courtenay.

• In the Community Gallery, presented in partnership with North Island College and Vancouver Island University, is an exhibit titled Rights and Wrongs: the Resilience of the World’s Indigenous People.

It’s a collection of black and white social documentary photography by photojournalist, activist and poet Carlos Reyes-Manzo, who has travelled extensively throughout Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

Reyes-Manzo’s work attempts to capture the marginalization of indigenous people around the world affected by social and political changes in an era of economically focused globalization.

“I find it difficult to separate human rights from photography and poetry,” he says. “For me, they have always been entangled in history.”

Reyes-Manzo (born in San Antonio, Chile) is a London, England-based documentary photographer, photojournalist and poet. He is a noted activist and chronicler of social injustice internationally, and was invited by Amnesty International UK to be the first Poet in Residence during their 50th Anniversary.

• In the George Sawchuk Gallery, a student exhibit titled Portfolio features the artwork of Samantha Christianson and Maddisen Farrell.

Portfolio is a selection of drawings, oil and acrylic paintings exploring a variety of techniques and subject matter. This collection of works represents a path to the next endeavour — the next step of artistic exploration and studies.

Samantha Christianson is a first-year student in the Fine Arts program at North Island College (Comox Valley), having graduated from Georges P. Vanier in 2011.

Maddisen Farrell is a senior at Vanier. She has attended art classes throughout her school career and plans to attend Alberta College of Art + Design for a summer intensive pre-college program.

The Comox Valley Art Gallery is at 580 Duncan Ave. in downtown Courtenay. Viewing hours are Tuesdays to Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. For details, visit www.comoxvalleyartgallery.com or call 250-338-6211.

— Comox Valley Art Gallery

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