Kerry Fletcher looks at a rose bush and sees a beaded curtain in the making, the rosehips waiting to be strung and hung in front of a window.
She also collects the detritus most of us would unthinkingly step over – pinecones and porcupine needles and rusted springs – and turns it all into spare, carefully arranged pieces of art.
“I’m out walking my dog all the time and there’s constant inspiration on the ground,” said the Whitehorse artist, whose work is on display at the Yukon Artists at Work Gallery in a show that opens tonight, entitled, Stones, Bones, Berries: the art of collecting.
And for anyone looking to spend what’s expected to be a rainy evening looking at art, another exhibit opens tonight that combines ceramic sculpture with abstract painting, found just across the hall in the Copper Moon Gallery.
Fletcher, who has lived in the Yukon for seven years, is best-known for the chunky, river-rock necklaces that she makes and sells.
But she’s never thought of herself as simply being as jeweler. She’s an artist who had her start with glass-blowing, but quickly became disenchanted with the toxic fumes and powders she was required to work with.
So she began to create art with what she found on her walks. Other than the jewelry, none of this work has been on public display until now.
Tiny triptychs that balance unusual stones and bones with rusted bits of metal hang from the walls.
Warped wood is studded with barnacles and turquoise rock.
Porcupine quills are matched with dentalium seashells and slender seed pods that have twisted as they dried.
One work even incorporates a piece of “nature-made paper” found on the shores of Lake Laberge: an accumulation of sludge that had washed ashore and dried into something akin to paper mache.
Many of the materials she uses hails from the Yukon, although the barnacles and sand dollars used in some pieces originate from Salt Spring Island.
Some rocks were found in Atlin; others in Tsiigehtchic.
And, of course, there are the rosehip curtains.
“I love the ‘70s,” she said. “I’m a retro girl.”
Across the hall in the Copper Moon gallery is Tale of two: a winter at Tagish, a mixture of abstract painting and whimsical sculpture, by Whitehorse artists Sandra Storey and Ken Thomas.
Storey is responsible for the sculptures, which depict animals she’s observed in the surrounding area: a fox, a squirrel, several ravens, a pair of grey jays, among others.
Many of the animals are life-sized, reasonably accurate facsimiles – other than for the cloaks they wear. The garb is inspired by aboriginal tales of shamans transforming into animals.
And, upon closer inspection, the melding of human and animal qualities goes deeper. The fox wears a loving, maternal expression on her face. The squirrel appears ecstatic.
And the ravens, naturally enough, are cheeky. They’ve conspicuously shed their cloaks.
“If they were part of the shaman meeting they would be the ones that would show up drunk,” said their creator, Sandra Storey, with a laugh.
Thomas’ paintings, which hang on the walls surrounding the sculptures, are simple and stark.
Thick lines of bright orange, forest green and dark brown crisscross an off-white backdrop.
Yet animals can be found in his paintings, too, however semi-formed. A brown splotch has the trace of a running rodent in it. A bird emerges from a blob of paint in another frame.
It’s part of Thomas’ struggle with what he calls the tension between expression and depiction.
He spent the better part of a week working on the larger paintings, which measure a little more than half a metre across, fussing over whether to move one thick orange diagonal line several millimetres left or not.
The two artists recently became sweethearts and, as the exhibit’s title suggests, they spent the winter together at Storey’s parents’ old cabin.
The two artists could not help but influence one another over the winter. Storey found herself adding abstract forms to the cloaks of the animals, which she had never before done.
And Thomas discovered his work, once busy, had become more simple and pared-down.
Opening receptions for both exhibits start tonight at 5 p.m. and continue until 9 p.m. The shows run until the end of the month.
Contact John Thompson at