Gallery hosts not-so-subtle exhibitions

New York's Cynthia Karalla joins Kelowna’s Fern Helfand and Vernon’s Kevin Spetifore in showing their work at Headbones Gallery.

New York-based artist Cynthia Karalla‘s After Death Option

New York-based artist Cynthia Karalla‘s After Death Option

Headbones Gallery continues to bring in internationally-recognized artists to its hill-top gallery located on Old Kamloops Road in Vernon.

With last year’s visit by iconic feminist artist Judy Chicago, the gallery is welcoming  prominent New York-based artist Cynthia Karalla as part of its next exhibition opening.

Karalla, who lives and works in New York City and Italy, has shown her photo-based work in collections at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and Tokyo’s Yokohama Museum.

She arrives at Headbones today and will be at the gallery as a visiting artist until Sunday.

The public will have a chance to meet her when Headbones hosts an opening reception for its latest exhibitions, which also feature work by Kelowna’s Fern Helfand and Vernon’s Kevin Spetifore, Saturday.

Both Karalla and Helfand, a professor of photography in the creative studies department at UBC Okanagan whose exhibition, About Looking, was recently featured at the Vernon Public Art Gallery, share a common esthetic.

“The body of photographs by Fern Helfand and Karalla fly the subversive flag with a flare that could be termed sociological feminism,” said Headbones curator and co-owner Julie Oakes, who is calling their joined collections Subtle Slur.

“Each examines a different aspect of sociological phenomena, but they are tied by more than their photographic medium. Both artists objectify an accepted sociological norm and in doing so, point out a disconnect in our symbiotic relationship with the natural world,” said Oakes.

In About Looking, Helfand addresses a current and acceptable relationship that man has to animal as she presents depictions of animals from the wild within a museum framework, while Karalla turns her attention to the animal, mineral and vegetable and presents it in the arena of consumerism, said Oakes.

“Each arrives at a similar conclusion,” she added. “Their combined take on the subject matter is couched in a feminine subtle slur. The wit of the work is dry enough to make the point of oddness clear, but it is phrased sexually so as to be attractive and entice the second look.”

Spetifore, who lives and works in an East Hill heritage home he has restored, is showing his works on paper in the exhibition, Vorrei uno Spetifore, in Headbones’ Drawers Gallery, which is dedicated to works on paper.

In the series, Spetifore has developed a series of works that converge on a central cut using only three colours of paper.

“Spetifore is able to cut strips of paper as fine as 1/8-inch, which he uses to create varying width stripes of colour,” said Oakes. “Dimensionality ensues as the properties of the colours in relation to one another mitigate their perceived position in relation to the picture plane.”

Working in a space that is more like a science lab than the typical artist’s studio, Spetifore also has a sculptural practice, where he makes illuminated works of art made from wax.

“The plebeian word for this is candles, but the word with the utilitarian connotations it arouses doesn’t pay justice to Spetifore’s wax pieces for they are each individual phenomenal objects,” said Oakes. “That they have built into their production the element of disintegration as they burn their lives away also makes for an apt metaphor to the human condition.”

Karalla, Helfand and Spetifore will be in attendance at the opening reception at Headbones Gallery on Saturday between 3 and 7 p.m. Musical entertainment will be provided by three accordion personalities.

For more information, contact the gallery at 250-542-8987, or visit