It is nearly impossible to explain humanity’s draw to art. Art embodies different definitions for everyone. Its touch is ethereal and mysterious, yet permanent: if you think about it, so many cultures on Earth are partially rooted in some sort of craft, art, and creativity. It does not matter how educated, passionate, old, or “cultured” somebody is – everybody has the ability to make and connect with art in the most meaningful way possible.
Maya Beaudry, a fifth generation Vancouverite and Emily Carr painting and sculpture student, especially understands this. “I’m really interested in the art that exists for everybody”, she tells me over a quiet drink at The Main. “It’s the things that people do to keep busy rather than capital-A, big, high art. The place that I come from is a desire to keep busy, stay working, crafts, and hobbies.”
Maya’s earlier work clearly alludes to this. The sculptures on her blog, Some Things I Made (mayabeaudry.tumblr.com, are a tight contrast of vibrant energy and control. One piece features meticulously-woven geometric patterns, with their bright primary colours reigned in under the stability of thread against a bike wheel. Despite the buzzing complexity, it feels precisely balanced. “I have this inherent need to make things balanced, but really, balanced work is often boring”, she admits. “I need some reason to tip the scale away from primary colours and towards other shapes. If it was up to me, I’d be making weird psychedelic concentric squares forever. They just make sense to me.”
Her latest work, however, is clearly the departure she had been looking for. Instead of strictly organizing her materials and colour balance, Maya has made things more fluid. She now uses hardware store materials, like rope, tarp, plastic, bucket paint, and found materials, like wood offcuts – materials that, unlike oil paint or thread, refuse to let the artist take much control. “When I was a little bit younger, I always [set goals] for big projects. Now, it’s about taking flaws and rolling with them. It’s freeing because there’s no perfectionism, and it’s more fun because the ideas that you come up with on your own are never as good as the ideas your materials will reveal. There are secrets in the materials you’d never be able to think of.”
Despite empowering the materials as much as she does, Maya approaches work with a definite theme. “For my latest work, I was thinking of rudimentary shelters”, she explains. “If you break things down to their bare bones, you have basic materials, like sticks, clay, and wood. I was trying to use the fake and the real together, like plastic and wood, to show that there is no difference between man-made and natural. We come from the world and anything we make comes from the world.”
Perhaps most poignant is what Maya’s work points out about our current state of living. As we all embrace virtual communication, a culture of seeing and not touching, and a growing body of content that is impossible to ignore yet too overwhelming to understand, Maya gives us wood. Tarp. The movement of a tree. The curve of a cut. She forces us to focus on the tangible that, for better or for worse, is left in the shadows of our technological progress. In fact, Maya phrases the feeling perfectly. “There’s so much out there right now and it’s going really fast. I scroll through a bunch of art [online] and I don’t look at it that carefully. I don’t know why I even look at it at all. There’s this feeling of being so far away from something that you can’t touch or reach. It’s a weird, empty feeling of something not being accessible, but even so, you’re still aspiring to it.” Maya tells me about seeing the Keith Haring exhibit on a recent trip to New York and being moved to tears. “When you have a moment like that, what’s amazing is that you realize that that can exist. To get hit by something so beautiful… that’s when you really get it.”
Perhaps this is why so many cultures on Earth have strong traditions of craft, art, and creativity. Why it does not matter how educated, passionate, old, or “cultured” somebody is when it comes to making and appreciating art. In a time of technological progress and numbness, it is moments like that – moments that physically shock you, overwhelm you, disarm you – that matter most of all.
By Polina Bachlakova, presented by The Cheaper Show. The Cheaper Show is an annual community art event based in Vancouver established in 2001.