As part of our ongoing commitment to feature the work of emerging artists, the Penticton Art Gallery has once again partnered with Island Mountain Arts Gallery in Wells, B.C. and their artist-in-residence program named in honour of the late Toni Onley. The Toni Onley Artist Project brings together two leading artist mentors and twenty emerging and established artists for nine days. Last Summer the two artist mentors were Peter von Tiesenhausen and David T. Alexander. Over the course of the program, each mentor was asked to select one of the participants whose work they felt was deserving of a solo exhibition and their choice was Nora Curiston.
I first came across the work of Nora Curiston while working as the Director/Curator of the Grand Forks Art Gallery where Nora has been working as a painter wile pursuing her fine arts degree. When I first met her she was taking part-time and distance studies through Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver. She was eventually able to rearrange her life to attend the institute on a full time basis where, while pursuing her painting studies, she found herself increasingly drawn towards the sculpture department. It was here that she began her first explorations into the medium and created a series of small conceptual sculptures. Nora's work Flourished in this creative environment and received her BFA in the spring of 2007.
Over the past three years Nora's artistic practice has been largely driven by her attempt to examine and understand the personalities, physical objects, emotions, sideways glances colour, shapes and the chance sounds which populate her life. The resulting works are an attempt to distill the sense of art which is inherent in everything. Out of this exploration has developed three distinct bodies of work all of which are represented in this exhibition.
The first and longest running body of work is Nora's ongoing fascination with twins and twinned objects. This series of portrait paintings are the most recent, and possibly final, stage in this long enquiry. Portraits are painted directly onto the face of the subject promoting the artist to ask if the subject and the painting becomes one and the same, or is the portrait merely a facade or camouflage which is an unsuccessful attempt to conceal the sitter?
The second series explores our love/hate relationship with the car. Her work entitled 'F RD' is a testament to the fading of the once omnipotent car industry. Here the artist wrestles with her age old love and romance of the open road against the increasing environmental concerns associated with this freedom and its ultimate cost. It;s interesting to see this work given the current state of the American automobile industry and it provides yet another interesting layer and point of entry into this series of work.
The third area of exploration involves the potent language of objects where the artist seeks to capture if not define the deep-seated meaning in everyday objects. The work 'Insulator' illustrates the transformative process an object undergoes when it is recontextualized and called art. Like the DADA artists before her, Nora blurs lines between the concept of art and object through the redefinition of its purpose and the context in which it is presented.
In all three areas of exploration Nora asks the viewer to examine their concept of art and beauty and hopes that the works in this exhibit will make you laugh and will leave you with a sense of longing. These works may be seen by some as nostalgic and others as the banal studies of the mundane but either way they are about process and creative exploration.
Nora was also recognized in the summer of 2008 as the recipient of a scholarship sponsored by Kootenay Carnival Magazine which allowed her to attend the Toni Onley Artist's Project. Nora continues to live and paint in Grand Forks and this will be the first of a number of solo exhibitions lined up for the interior of BC for 2009 into 2010.