There’s something different about the hills above Old Kamloops Road. If you look carefully, beyond the mucky brown and yellow wintered horizon, you may see a sphere-like object resting atop a wire nest on a metal pillar.
As far as reports suggest there hasn’t been some unidentified avian flying objects above the grasslands of Vernon.
No, upon closer inspection, these are works of sculptural art that have dotted this barren landscape, and in particular, on the property that houses the sloped blue-roofed home of Headbones Gallery.
The gallery’s new Skullpture Yard is just as fascinating as what lies inside, and this month Headbones is dedicating its space to the creative minds and talents of Okanagan artists in the exhibition, Okanicon Iconagan.
“There are a number of reasons why the Okanagan works for artists,” said Headbones artist and owner Julie Oakes, who shares her home/gallery with curator-printer Richard Fogerty. “The Okanagan lifestyle provides the opportunity to work without distractions. The physical environment is spectacular, even inspirational, and there is enough of a community of artists here to dull the edge of isolation, making the area more of a respite than a retreat.”
The exhibition features an iconic piece — drawing, painting and sculpture — from each of the participating artists.
“Okanicon Iconagan has resulted in the makings of a spectacular exhibition,” said Oakes. “It includes work by those who have lived in the Okanagan for many years and have continued to leave their mark.”
Part of that iconic lineup includes well-known blacksmith Doug Alcock, who is showing his Harrier Landing made of forged steel rings.
Alcock’s metal sculptures are found in the homes of people around the world as well as publicly in front of the Vernon Performing Arts Centre, at Predator Ridge Golf Resort, and even at the south entrance to Vernon in front of the Watson House with the 1992 sculpture he co-created with fellow Commonage artist Bryan Ryley.
Joining him is sculptor Geert Maas, whose impression on the local arts scene has been made with his landmark sculpture garden in Kelowna. His work also graces both public and private spaces throughout the valley and beyond.
The Central Okanagan is also the home to celebrated installation artists Byron Johnston and Jim Kalnin, who have made major cultural contributions both with their own work and as mentors to students who have graduated in fine arts from UBC Okanagan.
That will be in full display when Johnston’s graduating sculpture students show some of their pieces in Headbones’ Skullpture Yard for the opening and duration of Okanicon Iconagan.
Standing out among the pieces is Vernon student Angelika Jaeger’s pillar of steel topped by a crystal skull, which was created at Alcock’s Commonage studio. It stands beside Alcock’s large forged works, Fem Form and Fold Form.
Sculptor Jock Hildebrand is also part of that fold as a mentor and artist. For the Headbones exhibition, he is presenting a new bronze piece — a hoof from a giant horse — forged at his West Kelowna studio.
Internationally renowned Vernon stone sculptor Deborah Wilson is presenting her jade, bronze and steel sculpture, Awakening, which will have viewers in awe, said Oakes, who is also showing one of her sculptures, the bronze Ophelia, garlanded by the herbs and flowers that Shakespeare cites in Hamlet.
Falkland’s Leonard Epp and Kelowna’s David Montpetit will also demonstrate the near breaking point power of their respective ceramic and glass work.
And don’t forget those who work on one-dimensional surfaces.
“In Okanicon Iconagan, reality exceeds our expectations in the shiny surfaces of John Hall’s immense still life; Joice Hall’s 12-foot stretch of Okanagan landscape; the detailed snowiness of Glenn Clarke’s winter-scape; the perfection of Amar from Afar’s Past Present and Future, and Totem by Diane Feught,” said Oakes.
Using charcoal and pencil to make her mark is Falkland’s Ann Kipling, whose artistic practice relates directly to the Okanagan landscape that surrounds her.
Katie Brennan, now the curator of the Lake Country Art Gallery, has recently had her water-based paintings shown at a New York gallery. She is showing one of them at Headbones, while Westside artist Carin Covin is showing her text-based painting that vacillates between pattern and message.
Katherine Pickering, who calls Vernon home, has imbued a resonating psychological mysticism with her work, while David Alexander is presenting a large piece fresh from his Penticton studio, lyrically titled Reluctant.
Coldstream artist Heidi Thompson will feature her latest colour field painting, which Oakes describes as transcendently resplendent.
Shuswap artists have also been welcomed to the fold with Jen Dyck’s work that delightfully skews reality and Steve Mennie’s latest, which combines optical hard-edged precision with expressionism.
Okanicon Iconagan will also introduce a large abstract painting by Robert Dmytruk, who has recently moved to the Okanagan from Edmonton, and the clean cut of Kevin Spetifore’s paper piece and Carl St. Jean’s cabinetry work.
In Headbones’ Project Room, a selection of portraits from the 2000 exhibition, Artists and their Work, by Heidi Thompson will lend a short-term historical perspective to Okanicon Iconagan.
The public is welcome to meet the artists and see their work on opening night, Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. There will be a performance by Kelowna sound artist and UBCO professor Neil Cadger and Dale Zeitch on accordion. Headbones is located at 6700 Old Kamloops Rd. Call (250) 542-8987 for more information.