Artist Julie Oakes holds The Beast

Artist Julie Oakes holds The Beast

Oakes brings the elements home

Julie Oakes brings her installation, Blue Tornado Redux, to the Vernon Public Art Gallery

Artist Julie Oakes is about to awe visitors to the Vernon Public Art Gallery with bats in plexiglass, birds made of glass, and The Beast.

It’s all part of her latest exhibit, Blue Tornado Redux, which opens Thursday at VPAG.

The pieces in the show are a selection of works from the Vernon artist and gallerist’s large sculptural installation originally exhibited at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo, Ont. as part of Awestruck: Calendar of Ecology.

“It was set in a dystopian future that wasn’t working properly,” said Oakes.

The Vernon exhibition is on a smaller scale and will feature three installation-type multimedia sculptural works installed as individual stand-alone pieces which address ecological issues and concerns.

The tornado is made from recycled glass and symbolizes the devastating and amazing power of nature.

“A tornado is something that strikes people with awe, it’s devastating, it’s huge… it’s a phenomena,” said Oakes, who wanted to recreate that feeling. “It was made up of not only natural elements, the blue birds, but also the man-made elements, me.”

The floor of the gallery features blue recycled glass that Oakes received from the old glass plant in Lumby and which she has used to create the shadow of the tornado.

Creating the tornado posed a challenge, since the Waterloo space had 35-foot-high ceilings, while the ceilings at VPAG are 10 feet.

“It’s quite a difference, how we’re going to structure it here,” said Oakes. “But it’s important to always nurture your home base.”

The piece is made of four sections: the tornado; the beast, a blue taxidermic bob cat covered in hornets; five columns of porcelain bats called Batelisks; and a bird-like dancer.

Oakes said the white bats are the survivors of white nose syndrome, a real fungi infection that affects a bat’s nose and eventually kills the animal. The futuristic bats survived the infection, and symbolize the period of human gestation. The Beast is based on W. B. Yeats’ poem The Second Coming, and the Maypole Dancer suspended from the ceiling represents a new beginning and procreation.

The exhibit runs until Oct. 5.

“Coming up we have a very diverse set of exhibitions for the public to enjoy,” said VPAG executive director Dauna Kennedy Grant. “Part of the work we do is to also provide an educational component through our public programming, so be sure to stay tuned for updates on related sessions which expand upon the artwork on display.

“We have programming for all ages — a great way to spend a quiet summer day.”

VPAG hosts an opening reception Thursday from 6 to 8 p.m. for Blue Tornado Redux, as well as for Object Affection by Malcolm McCormick, The Big Bad by Lucas Glenn, and Bio Diverse Ability by Cool Arts. The evening includes music, locally crafted beer, wine and appetizers. The gallery is at 3228-31st Ave. For more information, see or call 250-545-3173.