Exhibit deals with death

Existential Elders runs until Aug. 9, at the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s downtown location.

NICHOLAS PESCOD/The News Bulletin Nanaimo Art Gallery artistic director Jesse Birch stands besides Bill Friesen’s Old Man Look At Me Now sculpture

NICHOLAS PESCOD/The News Bulletin Nanaimo Art Gallery artistic director Jesse Birch stands besides Bill Friesen’s Old Man Look At Me Now sculpture

As more and more baby boomers grow older, many of them are coming to terms with their position in society and the prospect of dying.

A group of artists have decided to express their feelings on life, aging and more in an artistic exhibit called Existential Elders which is currently on display at the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s downtown location.

Artistic director Jesse Birch said it was a “no-brainer” to host a unique exhibit.

“It’s such a thoughtful exhibition. Of course there have been group exhibitions of artists who have been working together for a long time and are in their senior years, but never have I ever seen one where they are addressing their position and that’s what makes it strong.”

Existential Elders was curated by Marci Katz and features work from 16 artists including Anna Banana, Famous Empty Sky, Bill Friesen, Tim Haley, Robert Moon, Lynn Orriss and Ed Varney.

“These are artists that have been working for many years. They are very, very established, but maybe, perhaps, some of them haven’t been recognized throughout their careers,” Birch said. “This is the first show I’ve really ever heard of where artists who are of a senior age are working together with such intention to really address their position in society.”

The exhibit features a wide range of different artistic mediums.

“I was really pleased to see the diversity of medium,” Birch said. “Particularly because this space, I think, is best when there are things in the centre of it.”

It also includes a coffin made by Jeff Hartbower for his partner Jo Swallow.

“They made coffins for each of them to be buried in, so she [Jo Swallow] will be cremated in this coffin,” Birch said.

While the exhibit deals with the topic of death, there are plenty of lighter pieces on display.

“Some of these pieces are quite heavy, dealing with some of the things that happen in the process of aging, such as health issues, confronting death and things like that,” Birch said.

Existential Elders is the second exhibit be held in the newly renovated space. It is also much larger than the last gallery’s previous exhibit, Ekphrasis: Writing the Collection.

“It’s clearly a versatile space,” Birch said about the downtown location. “This is 16 artists. So this space, we now know, can house an exhibition of 16 artists and it doesn’t feel super crowded.”

Since the exhibit re-opened back in May, Birch has received nothing but positive feedback from visitors and currators.

“It was so nice to host a guest curator [Marci Katz] in here and she was so pleased with the space. She kept saying how beautiful it was … That made us feel really good,” Birch said.

Existential Elders runs until Aug. 9, at the Nanaimo Art Gallery’s downtown location, 150 Commerical St.

For more information, please visit www.nanaimoartgallery.com

arts@nanaimobulletin.comTwitter: @npescod



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