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Quartet of Comox Valley artists featured at Courtenay gallery

The exhibition Challenging Mortality runs at Artful : The Gallery thru Oct. 15.

The exhibition Challenging Mortality runs at Artful : The Gallery thru Oct. 15.

Presented by a quartet of well-known Comox Valley artists, this collection demonstrates their willingness to reach into the shadowy corners of life for inspiration. Bravely looking squarely into the face of the existential questions raised by having lived long and large, these artists examine what it means to approach death with conscious awareness.

Ed Varney, Marci Katz, Bill Friesen and Jeff Hartbower are close friends, each with enduring careers as visual artists. Varney is a poet, editor, publisher, and Dada artist whose belief that time flows over us and wears down even our most enduring monuments has informed the production of artworks for this exhibition.

Hartbower, who considers himself more craftsman than artist, creates provocative and often comical assemblages that reflect his significant background in woodworking and biting commentary on current society.

Friesen uses the form of the mask to explore his existential questions of identity, playfully externalizing various aspects of himself.

Katz produces multi-media drawings and embroideries which reflect her graphic artist and philosophy background. As a group, these artists are presenting their thoughtful reflections on the passage of time and mortality.

This collection of work inspires self-reflection as these artists pose the questions: who am I, what is the meaning of my life, and how have I lived? The contemplation of one’s death, whether imminent or far in the future, is often a useful vehicle for self-assessment. To reflect on what remains undone, with the recognition of the final deadline, can inspire dreams, action, and personal connection.

The Latin phrase memento mori translates to remember that you must die. The origin story of this phrase is that the slaves of Roman generals would whisper the words during victory parades to prevent their leaders from being consumed with hubris (prideful and excessive self-confidence). The Medieval danse macabre pictures the grim reaper dancing figures from all walks of life to their graves. Renaissance and Baroque artists incorporated skulls, wilting floral arrangements, rotting fruit and clocks into their work as symbolic reminders of the certainty of death. Halloween and The Day of the Dead provide us with annual reminders of the ephemeral nature of our human existence. These artists have found equanimity and contentment by continuing to produce substantial artworks, even as their physical bodies demand shifts in their methods, media, and scale of production.

Opening celebration with artists in attendance Oct.1, 7-9 p.m. Varney will be hosting the Poetry Open-Mic at Artful, featuring poet Natalie Nickerson on Oct. 3, 7-9 p.m., $10 at the door.

There will be an artist panel Q&A discussion Oct. 8, 2-3 p.m.

Follow Artful : The Gallery is located at 526 Cumberland Rd, Courtenay. For more information, visit