Colourful expressions

When Amber Church tells you she's inspired by both Van Gogh and Dr. Seuss, you believe it. Vivid colours and a whimsical sense of play are common themes of the mixed-media pieces that make up her latest show, Colour Theory.

When Amber Church tells you she’s inspired by both Van Gogh and Dr. Seuss, you believe it.

Vivid colours and a whimsical sense of play are common themes of the mixed-media pieces that make up her latest show, Colour Theory.

“My pieces are usually colourful. But this particular show is a bit more of a colour explosion, more so than anything else, maybe,” Church said.

Vintage postcards form an important part of the show. Church stumbled upon them at a garage sale two years ago while vacationing in Hawaii.

As Church remembers it, the woman had an attachment to a box of vintage postcards for sale. She wanted to make sure they went to a good home.

She said: “If it makes people happy that would be good, because they’ve just been sitting in my shoebox.”

Church knew the postcards would form the background of something, but she had no idea what. “I think sometimes it just needs to settle for a long time in my brain,” she said.

“I just looked at it and suddenly I had the whole piece in my head, whereas the day before I had this cool background that I had no idea what to do with.”

The postcards are now covered with a semi-transparent pink paint. On top of that a large volcano, green leaves and a dancing girl in blue.

Yellow letters spell out: Feel The Goddess at Your Feet.

The Hawaiian goddess Pele – the goddess of the volcano – inspired the piece, she said.

“I think for people here, who don’t have a volcano goddess, they still have a connection to a mother earth concept.”

Postcard-based volcano aside, it’s very easy to picture Church riffling through boxes during a weekend garage sale hunt.

Layer upon layer of stuff is built up on each canvas, creating pieces with plenty to look at.

Walking through the show you find yourself resisting the urge to reach out and touch things – the dozens of gears and clock parts painstakingly adhered to one piece, the oversized industrial zipper weaving its way across another.

Each piece has between five and 20 layers, Church said. That means there’s always something to find if you look closely.

“It’s rewarding though. I had somebody buy a piece about three years ago, and she came up last week to me on the street and she said, ‘I just found something new in your piece.’

“That is amazing. That means people aren’t getting bored of them if they can still find something new.”

Each piece in this show includes some text. “Bring on the Rain,” says one, where blue birds carry a rainbow of umbrellas in a very Seuss-like fashion.

“Show Your True Colours,” says another, which appears mostly blue at first glace, but has designs of peacock feathers drawn onto the background on closer inspection.

A woman pulls back a giant zipper to reveal a silver sky under the darkness in another piece. “There is Always a Silver Lining,” it says.

Each piece also features a different anonymous, faceless girl. Church said that people who buy her work usually see themselves in the girl or see the person they bought the piece for.

“Maybe she’s everywoman or maybe she’s a female spirit.”

Recently a friend suggested that each piece was actually a self-portrait.

Church says that’s not what she was going for, even though the friend might have a point.

“Certainly all the words and images came out of me and they are things I would like to express and also to share, especially with other women, but with other people,” she said.

“So I think he might actually be right, though it was not in any way self-consciously done.”

When she’s not creating art, Church works for the environmental group CPAWS and also teaches physical geography at Yukon College. She says being able to shift back and forth between the two sides of her brain allows her to do both things better.

Something like this show “really lets my imagination be as ridiculous as it wants to be. I don’t have to follow any rules,” she said.

Colour Theory runs until the end of the month at Yukon Artists @ Work, which is now located downtown at Fourth Avenue and Wood Street.

Contact Ashley Joannou at