Government cuts to arts programming sadden Kamloops artist Kelly Perry.
In her own life she has used art to heal and in her work has seen that art has the power to transform lives.
“I’ve worked as a program and outreach worker at a gallery for five years and have seen special needs people empowered by art,” Perry said during the opening of an exhibit of her works at the Station House Gallery in Williams Lake.
She’s mentored people with little or no motor skills, enabling them to create art.
In the future she hopes to garner a grant to do some free outreach art work.
“It would be great to put together a catalogue of art at the end so the participants could take that away with them to keep permanently,” she said.
Perry began painting in 2000 after a bad spot in her life. A 38-year relationship had ended and she needed something to keep her alive.
“I returned to school and took a bachelor of fine arts at Thompson Rivers University. Afterwards I stayed home for a couple of years, but through that time was one of the founders of the artist-run centre in Kamloops.”
Perry’s present exhibit consists of 10 small pieces, each one representing her four children and six grandchildren, although a new grandchildren has arrived since the pieces were created.
Larger pieces she’s titled, Hidden Works, tell her life story.
“They are about my journey of life, death and rebirth.”
The pieces are jam-packed with colourful flowers and plants, inspired by photographs of Perry’s garden.
“I’ve juxtaposed them to be me. I’m telling my journey through the plants. Several friends have told me
Bold colours and larger paintings symbolize Perry’s courage to go beyond her fear of failure, she said.
When she paints, she has to have a connection to the subject of her paintings so she takes tons of photographs to ensure she will have lots of material to work with.
“If you were to ask me to draw flowers out of my head I couldn’t do it. I have to take a photo,” she said as she pointed out that each flower and plant in one of her paintings came from a separate photo.
To begin she uses acrylic paint as her pencil to outline each plant and flower.
“I never have a plan,” she admitted. “I just look and work with it, totally depending on my mood, and letting my mood take control.
“That way I can change the colours to suit how I feel.”
The collection represents her first solo exhibit out of Kamloops.
She created some of the pieces for a show in 2011, while others were only completed in the last few weeks.
“I try to make art all the time. I have a good space for creating art and I love colour,” she said.
Perry has lived in Kamloops since 1967.
Asked to pick a favourite, she chose Death of a Plant/Death of a Human.
“It’s not as bright as some of the others and it’s the piece that got this whole collection started. When I went through my break-up 13 years ago I was devastated. It was like a death and I had to be reborn,” she recalled.
Perry heard about the Station House Gallery from a friend who encouraged her to apply to exhibit in Williams Lake and Perry said she was glad because she loves the upstairs space where her art is being exhibited.
Besides, on her trip north to Williams Lake she enjoyed stopping along the way to gather rocks and sand she’ll use in the future when she’s working with kids.
“I like to gather pigment from the earth, and mix it with egg yolk to add to paintings,” she explained.
Perry’s show runs at the gallery through the rest of March.