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Keep your eyes peeled

Show celebrates variety of artists in Northeast B.C.

While some people may see a dilapidated truck, Penny Boden sees a story.

"It just had so much character, and to me it told a story," she said. "Vehicles are a real nostalgic thing ... it's got one front side of it all smashed up. It asks the question, what happened a long time ago? Who might have owned that truck and what else was going on in the world when that truck was new?"

She felt compelled to stop and paint a picture of that truck. Some time later, that painting - "Old Relic #2" - has gone on display at the 32nd Annual Peace Liard Juried Art Exhibit.

The exhibit, which began on Saturday and is slated to continue until April 17, is on display at the North Peace Cultural Centre. Sue Popesku, the Fort St. John Community Arts Council coordinator, said the show is meant to showcase both seasoned and newer artists.

"We're trying to pull out artists who have not shown before, who are doing their work hidden, shy and don't know whether they're going to be accepted," she said. "It gives them an opportunity to find out how they're going to be accepted, and that's one of the biggest fears of artists ... it's a challenge for them to put their work out for the public to actually critique and see. It's like putting your soul out there."

The show features a wide range of artwork. Some are landscape portraits, but the exhibit also has items like a buffalo skull painted with a mosaic. Rolla artist Karl Mattson also made an interactive metal coffin for the show.

"You can open it, get into it, it makes noise, you can see into it," said Popesku.

This year, the show had 58 artists with 101 pieces of work, going from the Yukon border down to Tumbler Ridge, she said.

Dan Arberry, one of the jurists who helped select the pieces, said the works that came through showed "amazing" development from when he last judged three years ago. He said the exhibit has rewarded him for keeping an open mind towards all artists, not just the established ones.

"I think there's a misconception for young artists," he said. "You can see the strength in everybody. Regardless of whether you're here or in Edmonton, or in Toronto - or you know, Paris, Venice; it doesn't matter your location, because the idea of where you are is kind of irrelevant now - we live in such a digital media age, you can find access to all that stuff, but finding the groups you work with is essential."

Three people were the recipients of the Encana Awards. The first was Judy Templeton, whose work "Delectable" won a Distinguished Award. The second was Lynette Gullackson, for "Earth and Pine Renaissance," which won a $500 recognition award, and Mike Kroecher's work "Day's End" also won $500.

Nine artists were chosen for placement on the Cultural Centre's 2015 calendar, including Joyce Benson and Tanya Shymko.

Benson, a Dawson Creek artist, works mostly in pastels, and likes to portray the relationships between land and people, among others.

Her piece "Running Smooth," which depicts a close-up of water running through rocks, is one of the works that will be placed on the upcoming calendar.

She said she was pleased to be a part of the show. "It's always wonderful to be connected to the art community around (the Peace Region)," she said.

Each of the artists had their own reasons for making their art.

"It's the learning. It's the challenge, I guess," said Boden. "I know with each piece I learn a lot, I carry forward to my next piece, and that's what keeps me going. If I ever was totally satisfied with how it came out, there would be no point in continuing."

For Benson, art is something she's always done.

"Things I would like to see, I would like to get down on paper, and it just carried on from there," she said. "(Doing art) allows you to get more connected. It makes you study things more thoroughly, what actually is meaningful, rather than just the superficial impact."

Tanya Shymko, who helps teach various art classes around Fort St. John, said this was the first time she had been featured in this type of exhibit. She urged people not to be afraid to try their artistic skills.

"A lot of the adults always say that they used to paint, or they used to draw when they were kids, and they just stopped doing it, or they say that they just can't do it," Shymko said. "They come out (of the class) with a painting or a drawing that they've done and they're just amazed at their ability to do it. Its not me teaching, I'm teaching them how to see what they're looking at, but it's coming out of them."

There were also eight artists at the show who were named as honourable mentions, including Boden, who praised the other artwork she saw at the show as "awesomely inspiring."

"There's so many different ways of expressing yourself ... it's just beautiful," she said.

"Any piece of art to me is beautiful because it's somebody else's creation."

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