Nanaimo Art Gallery curator Jesse Birch gestures towards carvers William and Joel Good’s Creation Story spindle whorl, one of the pieces on display in the gallery’s new exhibition, Across the Table. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo Art Gallery exhibition aims to bridge generations

‘Across the Table’ features work that highlights artistic and cultural family connections

While on a studio visit to Snuneymuxw father and son wood carvers William and Joel Good, Nanaimo Art Gallery curator Jesse Birch was intrigued by watching the duo at work.

Birch said the Goods sit across from each other at their kitchen table almost every day creating their pieces and learning from one another.

“That was really inspiring to me,” he said. “And I started thinking about other artists who collaborate with family members or who respond to family members and I thought it would be nice to build a show around that.”

The NAG’s new show, Across the Table, takes its name from the Goods’ carving routine and is the first show to address the gallery’s next thematic inquiry, What are generations?

The exhibition will feature audio, video, performance and sculptural pieces by the Goods, Northern Ontario-based video and installation artist Tanya Lukin Linklater, Vancouver dance artist Justine A. Chambers and Israeli video artist Guy Ben-Ner.

The first item the Goods carved together was a talking stick, a staff that recounts family stories through engravings. It will be on display along with a new talking stick to reflect on the passage of time and a video of William telling those stories. Spindle whorls and William’s hard-carved tools will also be shown. Members of the Good family will also perform a dance at the opening reception.

Lukin Linklater’s video The Treaty is in the Body shows a gathering of Omaskeko Cree families in North Bay, Ont. with a knowledge keeper leading community members through questions of treaty. The film is silent and later shifts into a dance segment featuring Lukin Linklater’s daughter.

“The artist really wanted to emphasize gestures and how we express ourselves through our bodies and how understanding treaty can be intellectual but it can also be embodied,” Birch said.

Birch explained that Ben-Ner started his practice as a stay-at-home dad and has been incorporating his children into his video art. The gallery will be showing Ben-Ner’s film Moby Dick, in which he and his daughter reenact the story in their kitchen using everyday objects as props.

“It’s really lovely and funny and talks about both the pleasures of collaborating with your kids, but also what one does to combat the perhaps boredom of being a stay-at-home parent,” Birch said.

Chambers’s work is a collaboration with her 90-year-old grandmother, who grew up dancing in Chicago. Chambers’s installation is a series of playlists that her grandmother shared with her from her time as a dancer. In May Chambers will be leading a series of free dance workshops in the gallery.

“In those workshops she’s going to be translating her grandmother’s sense of dance into a more contemporary dance with the workshop participants,” Birch explained.

WHAT’S ON … Opening reception for Across the Table takes place at the Nanaimo Art Gallery on Thursday, April 25 at 7 p.m. The show continues until June 30.

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