By Caroline Reynolds
EDMONTON – Stationed on cozy reading couches in the sunny Happy Harbor Comics, BeatRoute sat down with storeowner Jay Bardyla and general manager Corinne Simpson to chat about their upcoming Visions of Comics art show kicking off March 2. The art show is in its seventh rendition since the launch in 2009 and is in memorial to Gilbert Bouchard, a friend and inspirational CBC arts critic. After many contributions to Edmonton’s art community, he passed away in 2008. Along with the art installations, the opening night will feature guest speaker Emily Chu, an instructor at Edmonton Digital Arts College.
Tactful yet welcoming, Bardyla dove right into his passion and inspiration for putting on the show.
“The point of it is not to just do a standard art show but to challenge artists who love comics to think about the various aspect of comics,” he explains. “We want them to interpret things in different ways and then translate that into an art piece.”
Each year the show is themed around comic book tropes. This year’s theme transpired through integrating the motif from their 2016 edition, dubbed In Conclusion. The organizers agreed it was a natural to follow it up with a good origin story and have focused the 2018 rendition on the topic.
“This years theme revolves around origin stories, which is a very strong conventional tool in comics,” says Bardyla. “Not only do comics constantly use an origin story, it is constantly being updated and shifted, which is a testament to the long lasting nature of comics.”
Using modernization as an example he clarifies, “it goes from Peter Parker looking in little tiny microscopes, to Peter Parker using high tech computers to analyze things in a lab.”
Just one archetype shift to keep up with new audiences.
As Bardyla and Simpson reminisce about installations from previous shows (which can be viewed on the shop’s web page) it seems obvious that challenging comic based artists to step outside the walls of graphic novel illustration can lead to engaging concepts.
“There are people who do the very straight forward conventional approach, but then there are people that like to look for other ways that tool can be utilized,” Bardyla says. “We see a range in mediums; some might do sculptures or interactive pieces or even immersive pieces as we are going to do this year.”
Immersive referring to the live, made on the spot piece Simpson will be part of at the opening night event. The piece will be “the live birth of a hero.” As Simpson moonlights as a makeup artist, she’ll be doing a full body paint on a live model. It’s family friendly, of course.
“It will be like watching a live action origin story unfold before you,” Simpson explains, beaming.
Visions of Comics takes place at Happy Harbor on March 2 at 7 p.m. (Edmonton). The event installation runs until March 15 and is free to attend. Donations will be accepted to benefit the Bruce Peel Special Collections Library.Bruce Peel Special Collections Library, Happy Harbor, Visions of Comics