A cropped image of Tara Nicholson’s Spray Suit, on display at the Vernon Public Art Gallery in Nicholson’s Cultivate exhibition. (Photo submitted)

Exhibition discusses cannabis

A new cannabis exhibition is sparking legalization discussions at a local gallery

A new cannabis exhibition is sparking legalization discussions at a local gallery.

The Vernon Public Art Gallery is gearing up for two new exhibits, Cultivate by Tara Nicholson and 21 Days of Light by Ann Willsie —the Mackie Lake House artist in residence, with an opening reception of music, art and local craft beer Oct. 19, from 6 p.m to 8 p.m.

“Cannabis is a controversial topic in our country right now with the proposition of legalization just around the corner in 2018. The VPAG would like to welcome you to our opening reception on Oct. 19 to explore and discuss the issues of cannabis production through Tara Nicholson’s exhibition, Cultivate. This glimpse into the hidden realm of grow ops is seen through the lens of Nicholson’s camera as she ventures into both legal and illegal operations and provides us with a view rarely seen by the public,” said executive director Dauna Kennedy-Grant. “Joining Nicholson at this opening reception is Ann Willsie, our artist in residence from the Mackie Lake House. Her exhibition titled 21 Days of Light was produced during her recent stay at this historic home. I’d like to thank the Mackie Lake House for this partnership, which results in an annual exhibition each year.”

Victoria-based Nicholson’s latest body of large-scale photographs focus on the instigation of a dialogue about the nature of cannabis cultivation and its use in the light of proposed decriminalization of cannabis for recreational use by federal government planned for July 2018.

Nicholson visited and photographed grow operations both licensed and unlicensed on Vancouver Island and the Interior in order to document the artificial environment created for the indoor cultivation of cannabis. The images capture various sites that were engineered to control the environment in which the plants are cultivated. Nicholson’s photographs portray almost laboratory-like conditions where the exposure to light during the day, amount of water, nutrients, air flow and venting are precisely controlled.

Despite the fact that most of Nicholson’s photographs are devoid of humans, in some images the viewer gets a glance of activities performed by people during the routine cycle of cannabis cultivation. Just like in her previous bodies of work, Nicholson documents the workspaces and people working there, whether in a small size cubicle grow op or a large warehouse-sized production.

Nicholson completed her bachelor’s of fine arts at Ryerson University and followed to complete her master’s at the Concordia University. She teaches art at the University of Victoria since graduating in 2010.

The artist-in-residence program began in 2010 and involves an artist residency at the historic Mackie Lake House and is directly followed by an exhibition of the work created during the residency at the VPAG.

Willsie was selected to be the 2018 artist in residence at the Mackie Lake House. For the 21 day residency, Willsie had a goal to produce twenty-one paintings that comprise her exhibition along with some sketches and works in progress.

Willsie’s subject matter is rooted in landscape representation, but in some instances, she focuses on some of its elements and creates more intimate views of plants and flowers, trees and grasses. Other times she portrays the greatness of natural vistas of open landscapes and mountains. The understanding of the properties of colour allows Willsie to capture the essences and impressions of various sites. Her paintings capture the quality of light, which is her guiding principle when making a painting. Her brushstrokes are somewhat gestural, jet controlled and deliberate. Willsie is a prolific artist and in addition to her creations in her studio, she has produced bodies of work directly on various sites in the en plein air settings.

Willsie is permanently based in the Lake Country, where she has her studio and teaches painting workshops.

In addition to the opening reception, Willsie will hold an artist talk at VPAG Oct. 21 at 1 p.m.

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