Nicole Ensing opens the door to an incredible installation where residents of the Okanagan might find their own face among the smiles. Below: (top) Contortionist artist MaryAnn Lawrenchuk. (middle) Got blocks? So does Allen Okoye and he's got quite the take on what to do with them. (bottom)Bobby Vandenhoorn's shark

Sheer Madness and a broad perspective at The Mad Hatter Okanagan art show

The Kelowna-based celebration throws open the doors for installation artists to strut their stuff in a collective environment

  • May. 2, 2013 9:00 a.m.

It’s doubtful the couches, chairs and televisions repurposed by a fuchsia-locked contortionist as wall mounts to frame videos of herself dislocating her shoulder could have come to a more interesting end.

This is the landscape of The Mad Hatter, a wild and crazy art show running under the theme “Into the Subconscious” for 2013.

Now in its third year, it’s a totally volunteer-run art event and one of the only places to see installation art on a mass scale in the Interior.

“It’s more open this year because we’re having a lot of variety, more of the community,” said head organizer Nicole Ensign, the day before opening and only a few hours after she left the night before.

In years gone by the the show has been closely tied to the university, but in the interest of attracting a broader scope of artists and art enthusiasts, this year the group of tireless volunteers who stage the show have branched out.

Thus Sarah Parsons, who has run Kelowna’s papergirl project offering up free art to unsuspecting bystanders, has work on the walls, as does colourful painter Rena Warren; both work for Cool Arts, an organization that works with adults with a wide scope of disabilities and diversabilities.

Cool Arts has a room as well.

MaryAnnThere are those who come from a very academic perspective, like Heather Yip, whose paintings feature a macabre Freudian feminism, and then there is Will Hoffman, an untrained artist trying his hand at installations for the first time—he normally does doodle art—with a bizarre menagerie of trophies and figurines.

His piece is titled Dick Cheney’s 1982 Apartment and there’s really little more to say. It’s covered in flags, fighting figurines, a skeleton costume with a bouquet of fake blue flowers perched in its crotch.

It screams conflict from behind the clown shoes and Jiffy Markered Styrofoam he’s also included in the room-sized work.

This will no doubt be the only time one finds a tree sculpted out of bark tiles descending from the ceiling of the very business-like rental space the show is temporarily situated in, beside Wentworth Music.

It will also be one of the only times artists from this wide a swath of local galleries and from all over the Okanagan exhibit together with this many diverse themes.

Art history student MaryAnn Lawrenchuk’s work flat out defies reality for most of us, even as it addresses the mundane.

“I’m interested in domestic space…the association of the feminine body with the domestic,” she explains.

BearShe also has a history of working with flexibility and usually uses her own body for she possesses a contortionist talent that allows who to pop her hips out of her sockets on command.

She can also dislocate her shoulders, her fingers bend backwards at the knuckle in a motion indicating a severe break on the average skateboarder—the only other place one could imagine seeing this angle on a human being.

She has taken that pile of chairs and couches and televisions and built a sculpture wall with videos of herself picking lint out of her toes and popping muscles and bones in her back her back and eating frozen grapes. Her favourite.

“I never make anything to say something,” she said. “…These associations just come.”

She’s trying to demystify women in the home that is often a trap, but one has to admit there’s a little irony in there as her talents are truly mysterious.

last artThe Mad Hatter was conceived by the Arts Council of the Central Okanagan and brought to fruition through the Art Ambassadors for Youth Program.

This is the first year the show is headed up by a committee and the opening Friday, May 3 will include performances from local musician Windmills, DJ Connor McCloskey, Jessica Bonney, Trevor Neill, Laura Sciarpelletti and Alex Eastman.

It is free from Saturday, May 4 to 12 for the general public to come and take a look. The event on Friday, May 3 is $20 with a catalogue, and $15 without; $10 for students. It runs from 6:30 to 10 p.m. at 1634 Harvey Avenue, beside Wentworth Music.

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