Controversial art is nothing new and not limited to the big city.
It’s the current focus of an exhibition, and concurrent discussion, in the department of creative studies at UBC Okanagan, which is examining artworks that have raised a few eyebrows on campus and in the community.
Some may remember the hoopla surrounding sculptor Michael Hermesh’s nude statue of Frank, The Baggage Handler, in the Penticton roundabout that raised the ire of the city and was unceremoniously emasculated. (It now rests comfortably and intact at Red Rooster Winery in Naramata.)
Then there was the time when a group of Vernonites wearing paper bag masks and T-shirts, showing bare female breasts, walked from City Hall to the Vernon Courthouse.
The silk-screened shirts were raised to reveal an ululating response which became Breasts Protest Anonymous, a video, photography and performance installation created by Julie Oakes, owner/artist of Headbones Gallery, which has had a few incarnations in Vernon since it first opened in the early’90s.
As the art debate continues in Kelowna, people can see some of Oakes’ more controversial, or as she would prefer, discussion engaging works in the new exhibition, A Blast from the Radical Past, opening Thursday at Headbones Gallery.
The opening also features a performance by the Gabriel Palatchi Band, which is currently touring across Canada on the release of its second album, Caja Musical (music box).
“A Blast from the Radical Past is a short exhibition, just two weeks of exposure — a bit of background for the many new visitors to Headbones Gallery as well as a chance for those who were there to look at it once again,” said Oakes.
While some of the works to be shown are more sexually-based, others come from an environmental standpoint.
“The tables have turned in 2013,” said Oakes. “A more balanced and mature visual vocabulary is now part and partial to (my) current work but the roots are still evident.”
One of the exhibitions from the past being recalled is Oakes’ Earthlines Deadlines Lifelines, which was shown at the Vernon and Kelowna art galleries in the ‘90s, and caused debate about forestry practices.
“The large pieces from the early ‘80s… show the seeds of the new work where ecological concerns are finding expression in the large oil paintings of the seasons,” said Oakes.
Along with the paintings and installations, Headbones will also take a trip back in time by showing a music video by band, Lewd Wave Free Lance, during intermission at the opening and throughout the exhibition run.
Shot in 1984 at Oakes’ former home, the High Farm above Fintry on the westside of Okanagan Lake, the video has been rescued from deteriorating VHS tapes, reformatted and edited.
It features Oakes’ former husband Christopher Oakes, as drummer/director; Jim Brown, guitarist/producer; Ian Ridgway, guitarist/set designer; Chris Duggin, percussionist/born again; Larry Gadbois, bassist/detective; Ross Barett, saxophone, and Bugley Brookfield, keyboards.
“The recent release on YouTube of the edited version of that urgently creative, encompassing experience may prick a highlighted sense of nostalgia,” said Oakes.
Thursday’s opening reception of A Blast from the Radical Past is a ticketed event, with tickets available from Headbones Gallery by calling 250-542-8987 or from the Bean Scene coffee house. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. and The Gabriel Palatchi Band plays at 8 p.m.