Artist Kari Lehr stands with one of her striking portraits. Lehr said that she likes to apply an unorthodox array of colours and human-like expressions to her bear portraits.

Artist Kari Lehr stands with one of her striking portraits. Lehr said that she likes to apply an unorthodox array of colours and human-like expressions to her bear portraits.

Making artful connections

Inside Out Fernie Wellness was host to a double billing of artists on Saturday, April 4 who sought to make a connection with their viewers.

Inside Out Fernie Wellness was host to a double billing of artists on Saturday, April 4 who sought to make a connection with their viewers.

Striking portraits of multicoloured bears by Kari Lehr and intriguing landscapes in smoky chalk by Aileen Shipley were hung throughout the space.

Both artists took inspiration from trees and nature, as many local artists do.

In the case of Lehr, her almost human portraits of bears seem to capture her audience.

“People really respond to them, mostly to the colour and how it’s unexpected. But I think people also talk about the bears’ eyes and how they draw them in,” explained Lehr.

In addition to her bear series, Lehr said she also likes to explore the theme of human and nature connections.

“One of the first motifs I incorporated into my work was trees. I fell in love with the idea of aspen after reading about how their root systems can extend for miles. And I loved that idea as a metaphor for our connection to each other,” she said.

Other themes Lehr explores with her work include womanhood, which is exemplified on a female bust covered with delicate flowers.

The exhibit is Lehr’s second exhibit in Fernie, having previously displayed her work at The Arts Station alongside another artist.

“It’s really exciting to have my work on display and it’s really fulfilling to hear stories from people who connect with my art on a personal level. It means so much to be able to connect and communicate with people in that way,” said Lehr.

It was also the first showing in in Fernie for Shipley, having come to her chalk drawings through a frustration with other mediums.

After becoming frustrated with other art mediums, Fernie painter Aileen Shipley began using chalk. Her works are on display at Fernie Wellness until May 30.

“I’ve been playing with art for 20 years and I’ve always wanted to express myself in that way but always been impatient with the process as I felt frustrated by the medium,” said Shipley who had tried her hand with acrylics and oil before finding chalk.

Six months ago after settling in Fernie, Shipley picked up a piece of chalk and created her first tree on a large piece of board she had set up in her kitchen.

“When I stepped back from it I loved it. It’s the first thing I’ve ever really created and felt that with,” said Shipley. “And with that came new inspiration to investigate further the limits of chalk and what I could create with it.”

Shipley said that the moveable way she can transform chalk and its impermanent nature speaks to her own personality and need for constant change.

“The way that chalk moves allows me to easily change it. I can create something and stand back and see how I can alter it for it to make more sense to me compositionally. When drawing trees I have this freedom to go back and erase a branch or two or five if I want. I love change and I think that nature definitely suits my personality,” she said.

The rest of her works, titled “Beyond the Walls” features imaginative landscapes that Shipley allows to form organically on the page.

“It’s about looking past our preconceived ideas of how things should look, behave and interact and letting go and seeing what shows up,” she said.

Lehr and Shipley’s work will be on display, with some pieces for sale, at Fernie Wellness until Saturday, May 30.

The Free Press

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