When Sheila Norgate was young she loved books about animals. Bambi, Lassie and Black Beauty kept her company while she grew up in a difficult household.
“I decided, as a child, that I would look to animals for some kind of solace,” the Gabriola Island artist said.
“Not that I had them with me, but I guess that I thought that animals were a much safer place, to, in a way, park all the goodness that I wasn’t seeing anywhere else.”
Norgate gave vegetarianism a “whirl” in the ’70s, but didn’t keep it up. It was her experience with pets that made her rethink her relationship with animals.
A pet cockatiel soon turned her off poultry, while a longtime canine companion made her see four-legged animals in a different light. She now describes herself as “75-per-cent vegan,” but it wasn’t an easy change.
“I love comfort food, I love pizza with pepperoni, I love bacon. I love all that stuff but I’ve given it up because I want to make a small sacrifice. I sleep better at night, too, I really do. Because I was really torn,” Norgate said.
“I was kind of split. I was finding it harder and harder to stay asleep around what was happening to these creatures that I was eating. I knew too much. I started to know too much and once you wake up you don’t want to go back to sleep because I fought really hard to wake up.”
From Friday, Aug. 10 to Sunday, Aug. 12 Norgate and a team of vegetarian and vegan artists from Gabriola Island and Nanaimo are presenting an art exhibition that reflects their views of humanity’s relationship with animals.
The show, Fork Off: Animals, Art and Advocacy, takes place at the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre from Aug. 10 to 12. The exhibition is sponsored by Gabriola’s Vegeteers, an animal advocacy group on the island.
Participating artists are Elsa Bluethner, Dianna Bonder, Tammy Hudgeon, Caroline James, Leslie Norgate, Carole Reid, Zena Rogak and Mia Tremblay.
Norgate recruited the artists and didn’t give them any instructions on what to create. She calls it a “potluck.”
“I trust it will hang together because there’s something in the intention of this show that binds it together,” she said.
She said she hopes the show and her artist talk on Aug. 11 will reach dietary omnivores without shaming them for their eating habits.
“I hope we’re not just preaching to the choir … but I think it will have an impact on people. I certainly want my talk to,” Norgate said.
“My talk is very personal. It’s about my relationship with animals. I’m not trying to be an advocate or site statistics.”
WHAT’S ON … Fork Off: Animals, Art and Advocacy comes to the Gabriola Arts and Heritage Centre, 476 South Rd., on Friday, Aug. 10 from 7 to 9 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11 and 12 from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Artist talk with Sheila Norgate on Aug. 11 at 2:30 p.m.