By Chris Brown on March 30, 2017.
What’s old is new again at the Esplanade Art Gallery.
A quintet of Medicine Hat artists have come together for the new exhibition When We Were Young. The five — Susan Knight, Safira Lachapelle, Jessica Plattner, Wendy Struck and Kat Valenzuela — were tasked with using childhood memories and allowing them to inspire new works of art over the past year.
Knight says the project attracted her because of the idea of looking back, something she often did in her art even before When We Were Young, on display at the Esplanade until April 29.
“When you think of childhood you think of fun things and all the good happy memories but the happy memories aren’t really what stick with you the most,” Knight said. “So the pieces I did I pulled on traumatic events and the harder memories and how they’ve impacted my adulthood.”
Knight said that wasn’t her intention at the beginning, but as she went through old photo albums she realized the more vivid memories were the darker ones. When searching her mind for her earliest possible memory she found it was a traumatic experience that has been somewhat changed in her mind with the passage of time.
Realizing how that earliest memory had been “distorted” over time, Knight began to see the shape of her contribution to the exhibition come into focus and that particular memory became the inspiration for one of the pieces in the show.
Lachapelle also used photographs for her part in the exhibition and got help from a little friend.
Seeing how free that child was in her drawings, Lachapelle began to channel her inner child and be more free with her drawings based on photos from her childhood.
She began to pick out parts of photos that stood out to her and focus on those.
Lachapelle describes one piece in particular.
“It’s a picture of me standing playing with a red keyboard,” she said. “I’m sure there were other things in the room but the red keyboard was the thing that stood out to me and then I tried to highlight that by using a really pastel blue colour beyond that so the keyboard is jumping out at you. The picture will look vaguely familiar but it was more of a starting point to recreate that scene, that childhood memory.”
Both felt lucky to be a part of When We Were Young.
“It’s a very dynamic show. There’s five artists and we’re all working in different mediums,” said Knight, listing photography, digital manipulation, assemblage, drawing and painting. “Everyone is working on the same concept but each artist is addressing something completely different. It’s come together as one cohesive unit.”
The Esplanade is inviting you to be on the art gallery wall by posting a photo of you when you were young on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram with #wwwy2017 or @MedHatEsplanade.
A public reception with the artists will be held March 31 at 7 p.m. at the Esplanade.
The exhibition was curated by Xanthe Isbister, the Alberta Foundation for the Arts Travelling Exhibitions program manager/curator at the Esplanade.
After the exhibition closes at the Esplanade it will tour Alberta until February 2019 in non-traditional exhibition spaces such as public libraries, schools and visitor centres.
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