In the Bow Valley, bears are never far from the mind.
Look around and they appear everywhere; from signs to gift-shop windows, from books to postcards and major sculputural instillations. Sometimes, they even appear in person.
And on Saturday (June 9) from 1–3 p.m., bears will inhabit Canada House Gallery in Banff for a two-week stay with the opening of Bears, featuring 30 paintings by five of the gallery’s artists – Joan Baron, Grant Leier, Neil Patterson, Les Thomas and Peter Wyse – to celebrate the arrival of spring and the emergence of bears from their winter dens.
A portion of the proceeds raised from the sale of work during Bears will go to the Kicking Horse Country Grizzly Bear Society to support Boo, the grizzly bear famous for having escaped his 22-acre enclosure in 2006 and again in 2011 in a search for love.
“We really wanted to select a theme that would have a broad appeal, but also have some net benefit or net gain,” Canada House Gallery owner Barbara Pelham said Monday (June 4). “So we were looking for something we could run as a fundraiser or contribute back to the community.
“We’ve all been fans of Boo for a couple of years now and love hearing about his antics for escaping for love and coming back for dinner. He has such personality to him and we wondered what we could do to give him a hand. We all watch the news and cheer for our local bear when things are good and are heartbroken when things are bad. Boo is one way we can help out our local bears.”
Pelham invited Canada House Gallery artists who were a natural choice when it comes to portraying bears in their art, and artists like Grant Leier who don’t normally paint bears at all.
“And we were so thrilled that all five artists embraced the opportunity spontaneously when we presented it. They were really on board, inspired, jazzed, motivated and just went for it,” she said.
The result is a unique, intriguing and beautiful body of work that is as strong as it is broad and, as Pelham said, there literally is something for everyone, from realism to abstraction to impressionism featuring, for example, Wyse’s whimsical take on relationships to Baron’s style that she uses to convey the energy inherent in all life.
“(Baron) has a very distinctive diagonal energy that runs through all of her work. What she is referencing with that diagonal swoop is the energy that exists in all nature, in all of life. And as she says, ‘the molecules are always moving.’
“She is just trying to convey the energy that exists and I think that is really unique. She’s a dynamo and we’re really happy to have her on board.”
Leier, who doesn’t normally paint bears, has an extraordinary palette that offers a bright, otherworldly and humourous take on bears and Boo’s lovelorn rambles with titles like Midnight Romance Near Canmore, Single’s Night at Bumpers and Crantini’s at Salt Lick.
“One would think the subject of bears would be quite narrow and the work would resemble the other work, but in fact, that is not the case at all. Each has a unique style and technique to represent the great mammals,” Pelham said. “That’s what I love about an exhibition like this; showing the surprising diversity that exists within that subject matter.”
Baron, Patterson and Thomas will be at the opening reception.