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Featured as an artist to collect in the 2013 winter edition.

Gulf Islands Driftwood
Gulf Islands community news since 1960

Flights of imagination inspire

By Elizabeth Nolan on May 28, 2013

Art’s power to take us into worlds beyond our everyday existence is surely one of its greatest gifts.

 While an artist’s ability to take in the three-dimensional world and deliver back something that makes us attend more closely to a landscape, face or an arrangement of shapes is itself a rare and remarkable talent, the artist who can draw on his or her interior visions and make them real for others is even more unusual. Such are the gifts offered currently at two local exhibitions: Imaginarium featuring Leanne Brusatore at Salt Spring Gallery of Fine Art, and Grand Visions with Kevin Peters and Daniel Tibbits at Gallery 8.

 Brusatore’s influences include classic children’s literature, her father, who was a machinist and inventor, and symbolic images such as ravens, clocks and keys. She names Imaginarium as the “perfect word describing my favourite realm in which I love to live.”

 Her paintings are lush and warm, with colour combinations that hearken back to old world sacred works: darkest shadows brightened with copper leaf, deep reds and golden yellows. The thematic elements often have a steampunk marriage of antique and modern, in which pixie-like jesters sport aviator goggles and saucy stripes.

 “When I paint, I’m painting stories,” Brustaore said, adding the narrative might not be obvious at first, but something collectors get more and more of after living with a piece.

“That’s when I know I’ve been successful,” she said. “In a sense, they’re meant to be ambiguous.”

The title painting is one of the show’s most alluring, featuring a woman with dark bobbed curls and an elaborate mask with ocular appendages. Her expression is serene and somehow knowing, and she dangles a key on a string from one finger. A raven sitting on an antique clock is nearby. The illustrative quality of the work makes the viewer want to know the background story.

Less narrative based but very strong visually is Spirit Raven – Awakening, which puts together images from Brusatore’s roster of symbols such as the white raven, a pomegranate and a key. Set against an ancient-looking wall, the space looks like a room in a Venetian villa filled with golden light. A full pomegranate is sensual in its round red form, while a split fruit offers up perfect glossy seeds.

Accompanying the paintings are found object sculptures and an intriguing series of glass jars filled with oil, black and white photos and trinkets to be glimpsed inside.

 Steampunk imagery also features in Tibbits’ Masscape Re-invention series, in which metal and glass machines live independent lives above the clouds in oil paintings on wood panel. Like Brusatore, Tibbits’ visual mythology seems to blend elements of past and future, but while her imaginative space is peopled with characters, his world is unfettered from human control.


 Tibbits’ earlier work had a strong Dali quality, with structures on tall spindly legs set against dramatic clouds. The current series reveals the development of his vision in machinery of ornate metal and coloured glass, or skybound chains of symbolic runes in stone. Meanwhile the clouds are still important elements, and the artist shows great skill at portraying them in a range of aspects from dark storm clouds to golden-edged cumulus, to the deep strawberry-tinged sky at sunset.


Peters deals with a more familiar mythology in the animals of the west coast, but adds his unique vision in sculptures of stone and antler. His bears, seals and otters are full of individuality and make the most of various pieces of stone. Red Giant, for example, is a grizzly in red pyrophyllite, a strawberry-coloured stone that was the largest piece ever mined from the quarry. The grizzly’s brute strength is evident in its heavy haunches, thick shoulder hump and wide face. It’s softened by a greenish white anomaly in the stone, just at the animal’s rump.


Purple pyrophyllite and marble is the stone used for I Rest My Case, featuring a humourously morose bear in child’s pose. Ripples of gold streak vertically down the bear’s length.

Peters lets his imagination soar in Caves of the Haida, a complex sculpture in golden-green and brown steatite that includes starfish, bear, otter and seal motifs as well as the stylized faces of a man and a woman. Wide locks of hair turn into smooth tentacles, and an actual cave is seen in the hollowed-out centre. The sculpture is evidence of Peters’ reverence for the culture as well as his ability to create something wholly new.

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