Features

Community

’Tis the season to shop the markets

You may not be decking your halls just yet, but for hundreds of local artists and vendors in the Fraser Valley the Christmas craft season is here. These markets bring together everything, from food and ingredients to ornaments and kids’ clothes, in one place for the season. From now until mid-December you can find these…

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Community

Behind the scenes at local nurseries: Get the 411 on one of gardening’s busiest seasons

By Lisa Caroglanian Dorazio Unlike our southern hemisphere friends, autumn, also known as fall, begins for us in the Lower Mainland September 22nd. As our daylight disappears, it is the time of year when you begin to think about Thanksgiving and Halloween, transitioning out of swimsuits into sweaters, and looking for interesting and fun things to…

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Art

Counter-Narrative: Brandon Gabriel on becoming a visual storyteller and the power of decolonial art

by Nick Ubels

Brandon Gabriel is an internationally acclaimed mixed-media artist from the Stó:lō Coast Salish community of Kwantlen. His vivid creative work lends a critical eye to colonial processes that have attempted to relegate his culture to history books and museums. At 37, he has already amassed an impressive body of professional work that spans over 20 years and includes photography, painting, drawing, illustration, graphic design, public art installations, and architecture concepts.

“Threshold,” Brandon’s first solo exhibition, wrapped up at Centre 64 in Kimberley this summer. It’s a testament to the political potency for which his work is being recognized that he was invited to exhibit his work to draw attention to the proposed Jumbo Glacier Resort, which threatens a highly sensitive Grizzly Bear migration corridor.

In addition to his work as a sessional instructor at universities throughout the Lower Mainland and other artistic endeavours, Brandon is preparing to co-curate an exhibition at the ACT Gallery in Maple Ridge to coincide with Canada’s 150th anniversary of confederation that will provide “a critical perspective on what this colonial birthday means to indigenous people.”

I had the opportunity to talk to Brandon about his formative experiences as a visual artist and how his work has become more politically and socially engaged as his career has progressed.

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Community

Abbotsford Arts Council bows out of Jubilee Arts Centre: Proposed cultural hub to open without long-planned gallery component

On the heels of this year’s Jam in Jubilee concert series, the community can expect another flurry of activity to soon take over Jubilee Park. The Abbotsford Downtown Business Association (ADBA) will be moving their offices into the upstairs floor of the MSA Centennial Library building early this fall, but they will do so without…

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Art

Abbotsford artist battles at the nationals

Before you enter Queen Street’s Great Hall, you know you are in the visual arts centre of Toronto. Colorful murals and graffiti compete for your attention in their mastery and detail, making it difficult to distinguish which is which. Outside the Great Hall itself mill art patrons and artists, as indicated by paint-splattered jeans and hand-painted boots. They are as imaginative and youthful as the Great Hall is grand and old.

The Art Battle nationals inside are going full swing to the beats of one DJ Steintology, and in the midst of this humid melee competes Abbotsford’s own Shannon Thiesen. Thiesen, a teacher at Abbotsford School of Integrated Arts, is the winner of this year’s Vancouver regionals. Here in Toronto she battles other regional and provincial champions for the Canadian national title. After each round, the audience votes for their favourite painting; the top two artists of each group move forward as finalists.

Each of the 14 artists’ personalities is as unique as their painting style, and Thiesen is no exception. Wearing overalls that read, “Some people dream of meeting their favourite artists, I teach mine,” Thiesen easily has the most energy in the room, as one might expect from an artist who spends her days keeping up with 10-year-olds. She dances and grooves to the music as she paints, evidently having the time of her life, even under the pressure of producing a competition-worthy painting in a meagre 20 minutes. Her weapons are as unconventional as Thiesen: a window squeegee, house painter brushes, and palette knives. Thiesen likes materials that leave “interesting marks,” and she encourages her art students to think beyond the traditional brush.

With bold black strokes, Thiesen attacks the canvas and a portrait begins to appear. One neighbour works in sepia tones and the other bright rainbow colours, but Thiesen opts for more sombre blues, purples, and reds. The large crowd slowly circles around, closely watching the painters of the first round, but Thiesen and her competitors are oblivious to everything but their work.

Time is flying by, but Thiesen gradually brings a sorrowful face to life. She is known to win Art Battle competitions with her portraits, though she finds they do not as sell well due to the subjects’ unnerving expressions – “it scares them sometimes.” Her animal paintings sell much better, which she finds “people can identify with”; her exhibition painting the day before the competition was a striking blue and gold polar bear, now hanging above her in the Great Hall. Portraits, however, are Thiesen’s passion.

Brushes down, and Thiesen steps back from her canvas while the audience applauds and prepares to vote. Thiesen is pleased with her creation, though she wishes she “had five more minutes” – a sentiment undoubtedly shared by her fellow competitors. Reflecting on her portrait, Thiesen states: “It got really sad. I don’t know where that came from. I’m a pretty happy person!” Thiesen acknowledges that her piece has evolved from her initial plan, adding “It was a guy this morning, but it might be a girl now. My portraits are very androgynous.” She shrugs. “It’s whatever you want it to be.”

The tallies come in, and Thiesen finds out she won’t be competing in the final round. She doesn’t seem overly disappointed. “I’m just excited to have been part of it all. Everyone here is very talented.” She relaxes to enjoy the rest of the show, guessing correctly who will win the finals (Allan André from Ottawa). Thiesen has a message for her students back home: “Creativity takes courage. If you never take a step outside your box and make mistakes, you’ll never see what’s out there.”

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Features

An interview with Astrid Lyre

Astrid Lyre, lead singer and guitarist for the Nanaimo based alt-rock group Eleanore, returned to her hometown of Abbotsford in late July. During her short stay Astrid, who underwent a transition from male to female, visited CIVL Radio’s studios at UFV to discuss Eleanore’s debut album, and the state of gender and sexuality in Canada’s…

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