It is with great pleasure that we once again partner with the Toni Onley Artist Project and Island Mountain Arts located in the community of Wells, BC. For the past ten years Island Mountain Arts has been running the Toni Onley Artist Project, an nine day artist-in-residency program which provides mentorship opportunities for emerging and professional artists. Working with each year’s artist mentors, the Penticton Art Gallery has annually provided one artist with an opportunity for a solo exhibition. The intent of the partnership is to provide the selected artist with a motivating goal to continue to develop a body of work which is a direct result from their participation in the Toni Onley Artist Project. I consulted with each of the artist mentors prior to the start of the program outlining the intent of this partnership but the criteria and ultimate selection of the artist was left to the mentors.
It has been amazing to watch this program develop and to see first hand how the participating artists have all grown as a result of attending this residency program. Many artists find themselves working in total isolation where they lack meaningful peer interaction, feedback and much needed criticism. The program features up to twenty artists each year with each artist being set up in a classroom studio with four other artists and over the nine days they work on developing a body of work and take in daily critiques and artist talks. This program has helped to inspire and motivate so many artists over the years including a growing number of artists from the Okanagan and I look forward to seeing how their experience and the friendships made will manifest itself in their work in the years to come.
This past summer, the mentors were Harold Klunder of Montreal and Libby Hague of Toronto and they selected Caroline Anders to be this year’s exhibiting artist. When asked why they selected Caroline’s work, Harold Klunder wrote:
“The work that Caroline created while she participated in the Toni Onley Artist Project progressed from day one, initially with some hesitancy, but then quickly gained a quiet confidence and a certain charm, a personality. She works very hard and is committed to doing her work her own way. Given the right circumstances and some moral support, I think we are just seeing the beginning of her capabilities. I believe strongly that she is a born painter with lots to say. She needs to go into herself as well as look to the history of painting for solace, strength and confidence. She wants nothing else ‘than to paint more and more’, this show will provide her with an opportunity to do just that and then see her own work presented in a gallery context.”
Both Libby and Harold were unanimous in their choice of Caroline and they both acknowledge not only her unbridled passion for painting but also the incredible depth of material Caroline has to draw upon. In writing about her selection of Caroline for this opportunity Libby writes:
“When Caroline said ‘I love to paint’ she spoke with such conviction she might as well have said ‘I'm starving’. She painted fast and furiously on a confident scale and her work developed so much momentum in a few days that it created a tremendous desire to see what will come out of this opportunity.”
Caroline was born and raised on a small hobby farm in the town of Chelmsford, a suburb of Sudbury, Ontario. This exhibition forms an autobiographical journey drawing its inspiration from a folder of photographs, fragments of her childhood growing up on the farm. Within each of these photos is found a memory long forgotten along with the emotions and feelings buried and hidden from view. Painted from the perspective of her youth, these works are deceptively naïve but within each work are the layers and history of her life long buried and hidden from view.
Largely self taught, Caroline’s work has really taken off since she moved to Wells in 2003. It was there she found a community of artists and likeminded individuals including a mentor in the artist Paula Scott. Over the past ten years she has found her stride and her work is developing with ever increasing maturity and complexity which has been further fueled by an increasing amount of critical success throughout northern British Columbia. Through it all, Paula Scott remains an important source of critical feedback and as Caroline continues to mature as an artist, she is also taking a more active role in the development of Wells as an artistic community by organizing a highly successful mini mural public art project at the ArtsWells Festival. Through it all her art remains an outlet for healing and creative exploration and while she finds understanding and healing, she has herself become an inspiration and mentor for others and so the cycle continues. It’s an honour to be able to first present this new body of work and I hope in these works you will see the passion, commitment and playfulness which inspired and impressed both Harold Klunder and Libby Hague this past summer.
The Toni Onley Artist Project will run again from Saturday, July 14 - Sunday, July 22 in 2012 and will feature the renowned artist Peter von Tiesenhausen (www.tiesenhausen.net) as one of the two mentors. For more information on this program or to find out how you can apply for a scholarship or bursary, please visit their website at: www.imarts.com