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Crystal Heath | Allowing

The Penticton Art Gallery is pleased to once again partner with Island Mountain Arts and the Toni Onley Artist Project to offer an emerging artist from British Columbia the opportunity for a solo exhibition. The Toni Onley Artist Project for professional and emerging artists is as an open forum for artists to explore and develop their ideas in relation to their own visual arts practice. With hands on experimentation as the starting point, artists engage in an exchange of ideas aimed at bettering their understanding of the possibilities of the creative act. Senior artist mentors, with their vast knowledge and experience working as professional visual artists, in turn give valuable insight through one on one mentoring and daily critiques to those artists keen to promote their artistic practice and spur the production of new bodies of work.

For the past three years, two senior artist mentors have selected a participating artist who they felt would best benefit from a solo exhibition. The selection criteria have been purposely left vague and is at the discretion of the mentors who base their selection on the work and the daily critiques they have with each of the participating artists. In the summer of 2009 the mentoring artists were John Hall, RCA and Harold Klunder, RCA who selected Crystal Heath from Duncan, B.C. from among the twenty-one artists enrolledin the project.


 In writing of her work and her experience Crystal writes:

“In the last few years I started noticing just how much I have changed the creative process I had as a child. Even though I found beauty in the art I was making, I still felt rigid and judgmental. Studying in Wells at the Toni Onley Project rekindled feelings of audacity I had as a child. This body of work is a continuation of relearning to allow myself to be me and free.

Art to me is a creative field all around us and in everything. Tuning in, a process of letting go and allowing can seem so contrary to the programmed desire to push and strive … simply allowing is harder than one may think. Sitting amongst my paintings I am overwhelmed by the need to control change and order. I am learning to allow the critical chatter while at the same time giving my impulses space to act. Though I sometimes find the zone where all thought falls away and I paint to a rhythm I know by heart, most often I wander the labyrinth of the mind. The zone is elusive yet feels so much like home it will always be worth the quest.”

Of her work John Hall writes: “Crystal Heath, in many ways symbolizes the profound impact artist residencies can have on participants.  Clearly a thoughtful and talented painter, Crystal Heath presented work in her introductory slide presentation that was competent if somewhat clichéd.  However, within no more than a couple of days her work took a dramatic turn and by the residency’s end she had produced what seemed like dozens of remarkably intense, fresh and very exciting paintings.  From early in the morning until late in the evening Crystal Heath worked through an agenda of change that was refreshing and inspiring to witness.”

Born in 1979, Crystal Heath grew up in Grand Forks with her parents both working as potters and embracing the back-to-the-land lifestyle. A shy and quiet child, she often found strength and freedom in art.  Currently, as a single mother with two young children, she finds life is a colorful mosaic of stretcher bars and canvas on the living room floor, toys and tickle fights, unfinished paintings rotating on easels, brushes to be washed by the bathroom sink, dinner-time, laundry-time, play-time and time-outs. The need to carve out time for laughter, creativity and peace is an ongoing quest as is the discovery of her own unique voice. For Crystal painting provides sustenance, language, beauty, sorrow and joy. Its not an easy journey and one which can become clouded in the realities of life and the need to sell art in order to provide for her young family. This new body of work is a strong departure from the work Crystal is best known for and in many ways best represents the truest sense of her artistic soul and journey as the roadmap is being written with each new painting. For more information on her work, please visit


Earlier Event: January 22
Legacies 2010
Later Event: January 23
Mail Art Olympixi