If you are flying out of Kelowna anytime soon you will see some familiar creatures on your way through the departures well-wishing area—nine life-sized Canada Geese are taking flight along the Kelowna Art Gallery’s art wall at the YLW. It is an inspiring sight.
The birds have been painted in acrylic on canvas by Salmon Arm-based artist Valerie Rogers. She constructed seven painted panels that span a total width of 33 feet, a challenging scale for any artist. The work is titled Lift Off and Soar, and is the next in our on-going series of six-month-long commissions by regional artists for this space.
The whole wall now reads like a long window out onto Okanagan Lake, which is confusing, because the Kelowna International Airport is actually miles from its shore. Seen in profile, the geese take flight from left to right, mirroring the path of people heading through to security check for flying. Across the painted expanse of blue water one sees the familiar dry hills of the Okanagan and a beautiful clear sky.
The human desire to create mimetic likenesses of animals in their natural habitats goes back thousands of years—there is nothing new about it. And wildlife art today has a huge established audience and market. The skills required and the great length of time invested in completing this sort of work are values that are understood and appreciated by a non-art person, as much as by an art professional. These aspects give a general audience something to get their teeth into in terms of appreciating the works of art. They are tangible notions that so much of contemporary art does not have, geared as it so often is, to an audience who is in the know about the issues being reflected on in the work.
But within the art world, wildlife art is often ghettoized—seen as populist and non-intellectual by people involved professionally in the world of contemporary art, whether they be artists, dealers, collectors, critics or curators. It is a curious situation really, and this commission presents the opportunity for Okanagan audiences to consider wildlife art and their own views about it.
Rogers has trained with numerous masters in her field. She has a deep love of nature and animals with which she infuses her work.
Lift Off and Soar will remain on view at the Kelowna Art Gallery’s satellite space at the Kelowna International Airport until Nov. 9.