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If the shoe fits: Upcoming show explores artist’s love of fantastic footwear

“My name is Janet and I am a shoe addict”
Artist Janet Patterson shows off some of her shoe creations that will be part of an upcoming show at Yukon Artists@Work. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

Janet Patterson’s upcoming show at Yukon Artists@Work might be filled with footwear, but these boots aren’t made for walking.

Walk With Me is an exploration of footwear and Patterson’s conflicted feelings about them. Using shoes as the “blank canvas” for her sculptural and assembled works she explores cultural themes including issues of power, prestige, joy, sex, violence, pain and passion.

Other pieces in the show — there are around 30 in all — just explore the aesthetics of shoes to depict nature, stories or their inherent beauty.

Patterson has a lifelong love affair with shoes — she calls herself a shoe addict — but she didn’t sacrifice her personal collection for the show. Instead, she found the base of her pieces second-hand around Whitehorse.

“I love to use recyclable materials and found objects, so just about everything I use in this project is from the buy and sell or from thrift stores or from my own home,” she said.

The show will run from March 5 to 27, with an opening reception from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 5 that will abide by COVID-safe procedures. People will need to pre-register for one of four-time slots. Some of the works deal with mature themes that might not be suitable for children.

Naturally, attendees are encouraged to wear an interesting pair of shoes to the opening.

Patterson is an emerging Whitehorse artist who began working on large projects around two years ago. Her passion for shoes — having been a footwear model and collector — was a natural inspiration for the YA@W show.

“I call myself a shoe addict, and I don’t use that term lightly,” she admits. “I really do believe I am addicted to shoes, or I have been. Maybe a better term is I’m a recovering addict.

“I wanted to explore that idea. Why do shoes have such an allure for me? And not just for me, but for many people? If I’m wearing a beautiful pair of shoes that I love, I feel like I’m on top of the world. I feel like I can accomplish anything,” she said. “At the same time, I’m certainly very aware of all the issues around gender, privilege and wealth and all the things that are not very desirable that go along with shoes,” she said.

Shoe creations by artist Janet Patterson that will be on display at an upcoming show at Yukon Artists@Work March 5 to 27. (Haley Ritchie/Yukon News)

One of her pieces, titled “Torture Chamber,” suggests the darker side of donning towering footwear. Assembled from a green stiletto, the shoe has been transformed. Rusty metal spokes line the bed of the shoe and a menacing steel spike has been driven into it.

Another shoe sculpture — albeit slightly more glamorous looking — is completely covered in shiny, outward-facing nails and titled “Feeling a Bit Prickly Today.”

“It’s just about this whole idea of why do we have to endure so much to wear a pair of shoes?” Patterson said.

Other pieces celebrate the whimsy and beauty of a lovely pair of shoes.

Patterson collaborated with another shoe-lover — her four-year-old granddaughter — on one piece, inspired by their mutual love of shoes and an unfortunate incident of theft in Whitehorse. One day, when they were spending time together, a fox snuck into the garage and stole one of her granddaughter’s favourite red boots and one of Patterson’s favourite red shoes.

“We were commiserating about that. And so I’m working on a boot together with the other boot that the fox didn’t get of hers. So that’ll be in the show as well,” she said.

Another more light-hearted piece explores a dark twist on the Wizard of Oz — inspired by a sparkly red stiletto, Patterson used the shoe to reimagine what would happen if Dorothy teamed up with the wicked witch and hunted down her friends’ gifts.

The exhibit also includes some collaborative works with local artists Susanne Hausermann and Leslie Leong.

Patterson said the time spent on each of the works varied greatly. While some came together in a few days, others occupied her for weeks as she figured out what to do with them and gathered materials for the project.

“It’s just fun to bring together seemingly disparate items like you know, you have a shoe and a bicycle, inner tube and GI Joe doll. What do you do with that? What kind of conversation do they have when you bring those together? It’s been fun to do,” she said.

“We all experience art in different ways,” she said. “I have something that I am saying through my art. If they get that, that’s great. If they get something totally different, that’s great, too.”

Contact Haley Ritchie at