When Danielle Roberts was growing up she spent most of the year with her mother on Gabriola Island, but spent the summers with her father in Stockton, Calif.
Looking back, Roberts said those summers with her father helped inform her art practice, particularly her aesthetic and experiential interest in exploring “weird, constructed spaces.”
“It was kind of like this weird thing where we only saw each other once a year, so we always went to amusement parks,” she said.
“There was one summer I went to, like, three [parks] within like a month, so it was kind of something that I was always doing and it took me quite a while to realize that a lot of what I was going for in my own work was rooted in these like strange places that I had kind of grown up visiting.”
Roberts drew on those memories for her latest exhibition, Escape Dream, which is on display at the Hive Emporium until March 26. It is her first solo show since returning to Gabriola after spending the last eight years living in Vancouver.
“It is sort of a smaller community and so I felt like I could experiment more… I was able to do a few things that I haven’t done before,” she said of exhibiting on Gabriola.
The show is composed of paintings of depopulated recreation sites like fairgrounds and movie theatres. Those places designed for leisure and tourism inspire the exhibition’s name. Those paintings are accompanied by abstract images meant to portray the locations’ moods. At the opening reception on March 7 Roberts included a large installation piece depicting a shopping mall atrium, complete with an escalator and water fountain.
She said she wants her viewers to feel like they can step into the picture plane and consider their relationship to the work.
“By keeping the spaces empty it opens up a question of what these spaces are actually made for? What is the purpose? Because the purpose is driven by how [the participants] are meant to interact with the space,” Roberts explained.
“So by removing them, now, as the viewer, you can question what is this space, why does it look the way that it looks and what is my purpose within the space if I were to be there?”
WHAT’S ON … Escape Dream by Danielle Roberts is on display at the Hive Emporium on Gabriola Island until March 26.