by Yasmine Shemesh
There is a special kind of magic about Bowen Island. The land is tiny in size, reaching a length of just 12-kilometers and sitting idyllically in Howe Sound. The tranquility is perfectly juxtaposed with ruggedness; thickly packed with forest and roaming wildlife. Spend just an afternoon there and you, too, will surely be captivated. Local artists Diana Izdebski and Guthrie Gloag certainly have — so much so that the island’s wildness is both their home and a continuous inspiration for their works.
Izdebski’s colourful acrylic paintings that depict her west coast surroundings and Gloag’s intricate, life-size, wooden sculptures of animals are on display together in the Art of Conservation. Held at the Gallery in Cove Commons, the joint exhibition is both a celebration of British Columbia’s wilderness and an initiative towards conservation. Both artists chose wildlife organizations to donate part of their proceeds to — Izdebski to Pacific Wild and Gloag, Raincoast Conservation Foundation.
“I wanted to support an organization that is trying to conserve what inspires me,” Izdebski explains. “I wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the wild and the animals and nature existing on its own without our interference.”
Gloag is motivated by the same principle. “As an artist I draw inspiration from the coast and the animals that call it home,” he says, “and I want to help to protect them by supporting Raincoast Conservation Foundation.”
Gloag’s art was born out of his need to create. While studying biology at the University of Victoria, he began building sculptures of animals out of wood and leaving them at the beach for others to find. The sculptures soon captured the attention of the Madrona Gallery, which is still Gloag’s primary exhibiting gallery today. His process begins on the beach where he collects wood and, later, tries to create a sense of movement and character with it based on his memories.
“I have been fortunate to see many animals in the wild through working, and my own exploration of this province,” Gloag says. “One encounter comes to mind: while working as a field assistant for a young women studying climate change in alpine meadows. We heard the call of a lone wolf from across the valley while setting up camp. The haunting beauty if its howl resonated within me. I used this moment as inspiration for the sculpture ‘Lament’. ”
‘Lament,’ which is presented at the Art of Conservation alongside other stunning figures including a grizzly bear and a deer, shows the wolf with his fur bristled and snout in the air, the wood weaved together in such a way that is breathtakingly realistic.
Izdebski also has scientific roots attached to her artistic journey. Though she was recognized for her art as a child, she spent most of her formative years immersing herself in history and went on to study archeology at Simon Fraser. Art crept its way back into her life when she started doing archeological illustrations, but it wasn’t until she moved to Bowen Island in 2012 that she really picked up her paintbrush again. “I was so inspired, living here,” she says. “Words can’t really describe how it feels, so a huge part of my artwork is trying to capture that and just communicate the peacefulness.”
Izdebski’s paintings are serene and yet almost psychedelic, vivid in hue and with details that continue to draw you in. In ‘Copper Cove,’ an arbutus tree cascades over fading shades of mountain silhouettes and waves of sparkling green and blue water. Similar to the contrast that characterizes Bowen Island itself, Izdesbki’s paintings pair with Gloag’s sculptures perfectly. “I think there’s a lot of movement in both of our [work],” Izdebski says. “The colour contrasts so beautifully with his rugged, natural wood pieces.”
And, in the same way that the natural world moves both Gloag and Izdebski, the artists hope that viewers of their exhibition take away some of that magic, too.
“I hope that when people see ‘the Art of Conservation’ they might first reflect of the beauty of the world around us, and then decide to take action to support those that are protecting it,” Gloag says.
“Maybe they can help support or just appreciate British Columbia’s nature,” adds Izdebski. “Maybe, through art, that will inspire them to do more.”
The Art of Conservation runs at the Gallery at Cove Commons on Bowen Island until August 13.