When Haida artist John Bennett moved from Haida Gwaii to Montreal he didn’t want to leave imagery of is cultural heritage behind. Subsequently some of his lithographs at the new Fazakas Gallery combine visions of the city and his culture.
“Montreal Ovoids” features a washed-out, pastel-hued cityscape layered with Haida ovoid eye forms.
“So here’s a kind of voyeuristic view of apartment buildings in the city... It reminds me of this idea of autonomy in the city and the lack, really, thereof because there are all these eyes upon you,” said LaTiesha Fazakas, owner and director of the gallery at 145 West Sixth Ave.
The print is part of an exhibit called Story, the launch show of the Fazakas Gallery, which showcases contemporary Northwest Coast native art alongside contemporary art.
“Sharing your story, people can relate to it on a human level… Your cultural background isn’t as significant. It’s part of it but the story and the human connection happens across cultures,” Fazakas said.
After her studies in western art history, work at the Douglas Reynolds Gallery on South Granville, which focuses solely on Northwest West native art, for 12 years, and curating and consulting for others, Fazakas wanted to create a gallery that expanded boundaries.
Northwest Coast native art has often been isolated from the contemporary art world and relegated to tourist shops and anthropology museums, but Fazakas notes, “there’s been a long history of contact between two worlds.”
She wanted collectors to see how complimentary diverse works of art could be.
She’d seen collectors of contemporary art appear intimidated when they entered a gallery filled solely with Northwest Coast native art. “They were quite hesitant and they asked questions but they still, I could see that it was difficult for them to imagine adding a piece to their collection,” Fazakas said.
She met Mexican artist Carlos Colin when he was searching for internationally recognized Kwakwaka’wakw carver Beau Dick from Alert Bay. Colin, who just completed a Master of Fine Arts at the University of B.C., wanted to connect with aboriginal artists during his time in Vancouver.
Fazakas asked to see Colin’s work and was struck at how similar his vibrant photo of a Guatemalan scarf wrapped around someone’s head, exposing one eye, was to Dick’s Towkwit head, a sculpture of a head wrapped in cloth and rubbed in red ochre, with just an eye showing.
Colin’s work is concerned with the importance to people in Latin America of maintaining and preserving their culture and the impact colonialism has had on them moving forward, while Beau’s sculpture is of a warrior woman who can’t be killed. “You can just see the eye because she’s regenerating, she’s coming back to life,” Fazakas said.
Dick’s sculptures aren’t included in Story but his fierce carved and painted masks are.
When she’s not curating, Fazakas is producing a documentary about Dick’s life and she matches individuals and corporations with artists on unique commissions.
Prices of works in Story range from $250 to $6,500.
Before opening night, Haida artist Corey Bulpitt topped a length of telephone pole he’d salvaged with an eagle he’d carved and trucked it around East Vancouver, filming it and talking to people and some of them added buttons and stickers to the pole. So opening night, Fazakas got blank buttons and felt pens so guests could add their own messages.
“I like art to be fun, and I think that most people do,” Fazakas said. “It brings it to that next level and more layers and more enjoyment when you can have an interaction with it, rather than being stuffy.”
Story runs until Oct. 26. Fazakas Gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. More info at fazakasgallery.com.
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