Collaborative exhibit strikes a chord

The latest exhibition at Yukon Arts @ Work was born out of crisis. The space had been reserved for glass worker Jeanine Baker, but a couple months before opening day, an accident kept her from her work.

The latest exhibition at Yukon Arts @ Work was born out of crisis.

The space had been reserved for glass worker Jeanine Baker, but a couple months before opening day, an accident kept her from her work long enough that she couldn’t finish all the pieces as planned.

So fellow artists in the co-operative stepped up to fill the gaps. It was a fitting conclusion for a gallery where all members must pitch in to help with sales and daily operations.

The resulting collaboration is called Sonata, a collection of works from 14 artists representing a third of YAAW’s membership.

The pieces, which include painting, sculpture, jewelry and more, are tied together through the theme of music.

Donald Watt, one of the contributing artists, also hung the show.

“We will from time to time have group shows, and we’ll plan a theme, and it’s well out in advance and everyone knows and works towards it,” he said. “But this pulled together in a couple of months, and I think it’s very successful.

“I always hesitate hanging group shows, because you have such a variety of shapes and sizes, colours and pieces, that sometimes it’s hard to make it look good. But this show came together very nicely. The colour patterns worked, the shapes worked, and the wide variety of pieces actually make it quite nice.”

Indeed, themes of colour and symbolism jump out from the walls as if they had been carefully mapped out in advance.

Birds, and ravens in particular, feature in many of the works.

“It’s the music of the birds,” said Watt. “In Yukon, the birds speak and the birds sing and the birds are very vocal up here.”

Musical instruments, specifically guitars and others of the stringed variety, also leap from the artwork.

Jeanine Baker’s fused glass “Mandolin” is easy to miss on the first pass, hanging above eye level near the entrance to the room, but it is perhaps the piece that best ties the exhibit neatly together. Indeed, that piece was chosen to represent Sonata on promotional materials.

Watt’s contributions are four sky-blue, scowling, saggy-breasted, dancing fairies sculpted from clay and mounted on wood.

He has, in the past, picked song titles to name his creatures. That already fit with the musical theme, so these latest fairies were named exclusively for songs with the word “song” in the title.

“Annie’s Going to Sing Her Song,” one of them is called. “Dead Boyfriend’s Song” is another.

Watt’s fairies come from stories told by his Irish grandmother about the creatures that creep beyond the end of the garden.

“We shouldn’t play beyond the trimmed edge of the yard,” she would say, “if you went deeper into the back it was dangerous.”

If you ventured further, the fairies might capture you and take you to their underground caverns, said Watt.

“Fairy land is traditionally under a burrow or under a burial mound, in the old country. In the back of the woods, they were inside mushroom circles. If you ever see a circle of mushrooms, you never step in the centre of it because that’s the entrance to the fairy world.

“If you ate any food in there, you were there for life. You just became their property.

“It stuck with me over the years, and I always sort of wondered what these fairies looked like, and what would it be like to be captured by these fairies?”

In a reversal of sorts, it is now Watt who has captured the fairies of his imagination, giving them freedom only at the whim of his creative fingertips.

“Who knows what a fairy can do, will do, how big they are, what they look like? These are creatures that have been bouncing around in my head for 60 years or 65 years,” he said.

“They live in my head, and I’m slowly letting them get out.”

Sonata runs through Oct. 13 at Yukon Arts @ Work, 120 Industrial Rd.

The gallery is open daily, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Contact Jacqueline Ronson at

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