Portraits of animals and young children are what will first draw your eye to works of Edmonton artist Cynthia Fuhrer.
Fuhrer’s new exhibit, Splendid String, now on display at the Art Gallery of St. Albert, features a series of more than a dozen representational figurative pieces where the children stand alongside albino versions of well-known woodland creatures – bears, moose and the like. The children hold divining wands or swords, putting them in the symbolic role of protectors of the animals, or is it the other way around?
Splendid String, after all, is the artist’s way of describing how we are all connected with the animals and the trees and all living beings.
“Just the interconnection with everything, any living being … just for the fact that we’re all alive and magically alive on this planet, that there’s a connection there,” she began.
“In looking through environmentalism and animal rights, there is this movement towards understanding animals in a different light in the last few years, as having their own sentience and intelligence and social life. That’s kind of new for our understanding of animals, as well as the environmental relationship where what happens to one species can affect many. What happens to the bees affects us immensely.”
It’s obviously a subject the artist cares for deeply. The amount of detail that goes into each work is impressive – the carefully drawn portrait lines, the detail in the birch bark and the patterns on the tattoos and the carpets that the figures are standing on – but also because these are not small pieces. One triptych is 150 cm by 450 cm, enough to make a solid impression on the gallery’s main walls.
She explained that the inspiration for this series came from a childhood memory of a mystical interaction she had in the middle of the trees.
“My grandmother was dying a few years ago, and I had been thinking of a memory of her. She lived at Thunder Lake in a log cabin that my parents had built. Once she, my mom, and I went cross-country skiing in the forest around the lake. We came around a corner to find three moose just off the trail. I had never seen a moose in person before. It was like finding a dinosaur. It was incredible how big they were and the presence they had. They looked at us and we just stood there for 15-20 minutes. They weren’t going anywhere so we eventually went back to the ski trail and carried on. Having that encounter had a profound effect on me, and instilled a feeling of connection to all beings.”
Splendid String runs from Thursday, April 4, to Saturday, April 27. An opening reception with an artist’s talk will be held on Saturday, April 6, from 2:30 to 5 p.m. An exhibition tour will be held on Thursday, April 18, starting at 12:05 p.m. The gallery is located at 19 Perron St. Call 780-460-4310 or visit www.artgalleryofstalbert.ca for more information.
At the same time, St. Albert artist Kim Ohman presents Chairionette, a feature exhibition with paintings and an interactive art installation as an exploration of the possibility that inanimate objects can have souls and personalities.
The centrepiece of the exhibit is a life-sized chair/marionette that is animated with Arduino computer boards, motors and motion sensors. It is exhibited over the gallery staircase and reacts in motion to the presence of people. It will be on display until Saturday, June 15. The opening reception is also Saturday, April 6, from 2:30 to 5 p.m.