Wylie: Much goes into selecting art for exhibition

Selecting the art to go into exhibitions for the Kelowna Art Gallery is a complex process and serious process.

Clea Haugo

People meeting me for the first time often ask how I go about selecting the exhibitions for the Kelowna Art Gallery.

There is no short answer to this, as it is a complex process, and a part of my job I take very seriously.

Boiling it down, I mostly try to go for the “juice,” as a local artist refers to it—work that astounds, delights and amazes me, and that I think is important to show to Kelowna audiences.

The art that makes me the most excited is generally art that is visual, in which any socio-political aspects, for example, are wedded to the visual aspect of the art. The communication needs to be via the vocabulary of art, and that aspect must be paramount for the work to function for me as art per se, and not dissolve into signage or didactic displays. I like work in which the elements and meaning are emotionally and psychologically authentic, not taken from a book, or illustrating some conceptual notion.

I aim for a balance overall, over time, of media (painting, drawing, printmaking video, installation, etc.), region (local and from elsewhere), age, gender, all ethnicities, and a range of approaches of artists.

Group shows, solo shows, from time to time historical work are all featured, to try to provide a lively mix of exhibitions.

I like to consider shows that are offered on tour to us by other Canadian galleries from the point of view of Kelowna audiences, not only what I find appealing or interesting myself: ‘What would this show bring to Kelowna?’ I ask myself. ‘Would this be work that would be important for people here to see for whatever reason(s).’

How do I find artists?

Nothing magical. I spend lots of time looking at art magazines, the Internet, visiting galleries in other cities, and, of course, reviewing submissions received from artists.

The decisions can be tough, as the Kelowna Art Gallery produces only four shows annually in our large gallery space, and four in the small gallery, so each show is so vitally important, and we certainly don’t want to waste space or time with any sub-par work.

The Kelowna Art Gallery receives its funding to promote and support the work of professional, living Canadian artists. It is not the function of the curatorial program of exhibitions here to support local artists unless they have made a name for themselves already—finished training, had exhibitions elsewhere, and perhaps received some curatorial and/or critical reception.

I strive to incorporate work by these local artists, both in solo and in group exhibitions at the gallery, and in our beautiful 40-foot-long space at the Kelowna International Airport.

That said, artists of any stripe are most welcome to contact me at any time to discuss their work, either via email or in person, which I consider a big part of my role here, not just the exhibitions themselves (along with their accompanying publications).

By way of a little sneak preview, we have an exciting lineup of shows for 2014, including a touring show from the Vancouver Art Gallery, a large survey show of Ann Kipling’s drawings, a solo show of Vancouver-based Christos Dikeakos, who has an apple orchard in Naramata, about fruit growing in the Okanagan, and a touring show from the Mackenzie Gallery in Regina of the work produced by a group active in the last century who called themselves the Professional Native Indian Artists.

Plus, we will mount four solo shows in the small gallery that look exciting and fascinating, along with a new artist’s garden in our courtyard in spring, and two more solo installations at the Kelowna International Airport space, by local artists. Keep watching this space for my mo nthly reports.

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