Passengers at the Kelowna International Airport may notice something different this week as they approach the security gates in the departures area.
A series of large paintings by Vernon-based artist Julie Oakes have been installed in the 40-foot-long satellite exhibition space that the Kelowna Art Gallery curates. The installation is entitled Awestruck, Calendar of Ecology, and the four works that comprise it each depict a season of the year, with flora and fauna that are native to the Okanagan.
For example, viewers examining one of the pieces, Winter, will notice a snowy landscape strewn with familiar trees, shrubs, flowers, and animals backed by a nighttime sky lit by a full moon. What distinguishes this work from a straight-forward pastoral winter scene, can be glimpsed in the glassy-eyed stares of the animals. They are a little unsettling, which just might be what the artist intended.
Oakes is interested in exploring themes of the spirituality found in nature. The animal subjects are given the reverence of saints — fur perfect and eyes bejeweled, which also seems to reflect an ideal of nature rather than the real, messy and unpredictable “otherness” of the animal kingdom.
The detail of each of the 8-foot by 6-foot paintings encourages closer examination, which visitors are invited to see and discover for themselves. Awestruck, Calendar of Ecology is on view through Aug. 13 at the Kelowna International Airport.
Oakes received a Masters in visual arts, NYU, and a Masters in social and political science, New School for Social Research, in New York. After living in Toronto, Oakes, with Richard Fogarty, moved back to Vernon where they designed and built Headbones Gallery and her studio.
For more information about current exhibitions, public programming or special events, please visit the Kelowna Art Gallery online at www.kelownaartgallery.com.