Artist of the Week – Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman

May 17, 2012 § 11 Comments

Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman

“We think of ourselves far too frequently as just individuals, separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole World. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.” Desmond Tutu, on ubuntu

Her eyes, even in the most dim conditions, seem to sparkle with an inner light. They dance, they laugh, they sing. She possesses one of those rare and pure gazes that has the ability of seeing right into a person. It is not invasive or unwelcome; you simply get the feeling that she wants to connect, to share stories and emotions, to bridge that part of all of us that keeps us apart: space.

The many years that Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman has spent in selfless service, being involved in missions from an early age in Asia and Europe, becoming an elementary teacher and  a professor, then using those skills as the president of a Christian humanitarian organization working in parts of Africa and the Caribbean to improve education for children, have served to shape both her and her outlook on life.

Some might argue that pulling away from those efforts, giving it all up to create art, well, it might seem a hair… selfish. Until, upon seeing her creations, you realize that she is undoubtedly doing the world a greater service by becoming an artist.

“My aim is to evoke universal emotions in the viewer that will encourage him or her to tap into the spirit of “Ubuntu”:  what it means to be truly human – “to be wrapped up in the bundle of life”,” she writes.  “I have become profoundly aware of how interconnected we are – with each other and with nature. Art is a vehicle through which I can explore and honour that.”

There is unquestionably in all of her artwork a touch of the whimsical, a hint of fancy. But when you actually look at her work, you will find countless other attributes that are nuanced and revealed with such subtlety and nobility, that you will wonder why it has taken Jennifer so long to share her inner-artist with us.

Her mixed-media pieces are liable to be made of nearly anything from metal and wood to glass and eggshells. The juxtaposition of these materials is equally as stunning as the work themselves: on the one hand there is a feeling of permanence, a sense of longevity and durability; yet, the organic materials incorporated flawlessly into the work reveal a fragility and offer the distinct impression that the function of everything on earth is ephemeral, merely awaiting its next stage where it will be re-purposed and given a new task.

Of all of her pieces, each one unique with no duplications, perhaps one of the most striking and powerful is that titled Offering. Made of river stones, burlap, concrete, branches, and metal it depicts a woman kneeling with her arms raised, hands in a gesture of giving, and face tilted toward the heavens. When looking at it, you’re struck by an overwhelming sense of power; there is no surrender in her offer, no weakness. The woman is offering herself, as she is – heart, body, mind, and soul – to a greater power, and in this way shows her vulnerability as well. There is no weakness, true, but in offering everything she has to give, there is without question a sense of vulnerability: what if her offering is refused?

       

Jennifer cast various pieces of herself for the project: hands, feet, face, torso, buttocks. And, while it was a very emotional piece to create due to its symbolic connections with the artist’s own beliefs, the sculpture itself maps out beautifully what it means to truly be a woman: strength and sacrifice.

And, what it takes to be human: courage and hope.

We can’t wait to see what Jennifer creates next. She has been recognized by the college not only for her exceptional work but also her consistently positive outlook on life, and will be the valedictorian for this year’s graduating class. Jennifer was also recently nominated for the BMO Student Art Competition and our fingers are crossed for her!

For more information about Jennifer Wilson-Bridgman, please contact her by email at jwilsonbridgman@sympatico.ca or by phone at 905-730-8839 . Her website will be coming soon!

picture of jennifer wilson-bridgman

Jen, doing teacher development training in Kenya, makes friends with a couple of “orphelines”…

Artist of the Week – Kim Warne

April 26, 2012 § 5 Comments

Artist of the Week – Sculptor Kim Warne of Soundings Studio

A deep and gentle voice recounts to me this incredible story. Its soothing rhythm and pitch have no doubt stood this inspiring man in good stead as he helped people through various periods in their lives, good and bad, performing his ministerial duties.

It is not his unfailing lifelong dedication to helping others, though, that will be the subject of this article. Instead, this article will touch upon the incredibly lucky turn of events that united this outstanding sculptor with his passion for soapstone carving, and helped to shape one of the most down-to-earth artists I’ve ever met…

Born and raised in London, England, it was no secret that Kim Warne would never grow up to be an artist. His art teachers never ceased to tell him that he lacked ability. Warne recalls one assignment in particular that he was required to paint: “Nelson’s Fleet”, showing the great tall-masted ships of Nelson himself. Perhaps he was ahead of his time, perhaps he was simply unappreciated for his ability to think outside-the-box, but needless to say, Kim’s rendition was not well received. He’d painted a grey smudgy background with a few vertical sticks poking through it with the familiar red, white, and blue of the British Ensign proudly snapping in the wind. The piece was titled “Nelson’s Fleet in a Fog”. Anyone who’s ever been to London on a foggy day would likely understand the accuracy of Warne’s depiction. Sadly, it did not win him any favours with his instructor.

As a young adolescent, he and his family braved the war years in London.  Even today, he is still able to recall the horrors of the bombings that rocked his city to its foundations. At age fourteen, shortly after the war, he and his family moved away from London, across the ocean to a country kept safe only by its inaccessibility: Canada.

Due to his sporadic education during the war, Kim had a nearly insurmountable challenge before him: catch up to his peers in school. While he excelled in English and the Humanities, his poor showing in mathematics and science were a chore to get through. Most notably, though, was perhaps his art education: after only a mere three weeks of classes, Warne’s father received a call from the art teacher – a call that would not only change the course of Kim’s life, but also destroyed any chance of the budding artist inside reaching its potential.

In short, the art teacher explained that Kim had no skill in drawing. Unless he dropped the course, the young Warne would stand no shot of gaining entrance to university down the road. The course was dropped, another Humanities was picked up, and Kim’s skill in art was all but forgotten.

The next fifty years consisted only of art appreciation. Not even his children’s school projects could coax the crushed artistic spirit of Kim Warne from the deep, dark, place of rejection from his high school days.

It wasn’t until, approaching retirement, his artistic wife Wilma forced him to find a hobby that he began searching for his niche.

He already knew that drawing and painting were not for him. A lackluster experience in stained glass convinced him that melted sand and hot lead were also not in his future. By pure happy coincidence, a friend of his invited Kim over to try his hand at stone carving. Armed with some spare tools and a piece of stone, Warne set-to with a will…

… And discovered in himself an innate and untapped ability for laying bare the stone’s soul.

“There’s excitement that comes of creating something out of a boulder – the boulder looks ugly – but there’s something beautiful inside it,” he explains.

One of his mentors, a renown Inuit sculptor, would encourage him and urge him to perfect his technique and figures. Looking at Warne’s pieces, he would turn them over in his hand and would make suggestions, inspiring Kim to seek out areas for improvement. At one point, his mentor was looking at a piece, turning it about. Warne was sure he was going to spot some flaw that he’d overlooked. Instead, his mentor spoke the five greatest words for any artist to hear, “That is a piece of art.”

His initial subjects were the loons and bears of the Canadian Wilderness. His style is recognizable as minimalist, but by no means lifeless; in his eyes, the animals should appear as if they could just get up and walk away at any moment, despite their sleek finish . Warne has since branched out into inuksuit, whales and dolphins, and even frogs. The penguins happened along after an inspirational visit to the Falklands Kim and wife, Wilma, took a few years ago; they waddled into his collection this past winter. He has also begun creating a unique line of “Comfort” statues: a mother cradling a child, but with the child offering comfort to the mother as well.

In 2004, Warne’s work was selected to be given to 26 delegates of a week-long international NATO conference. Close upon the heels of this incredible honour, Kim was nominated to the International Guild of Master Craftsmen in 2006. It was a juried selection that took place in London, England, and was hosted by a customer already possessing eight or nine of Warne’s pieces. More recently, Canadian soldiers who travelled to Holland to celebrate the liberation of the Dutch nation after the Second World War took various pieces as thank you gifts for their host families.

Over the course of the last decade and a half, Warne’s work has been shown across the country and has been displayed in various galleries. His award-winning sculptures are spread out across the globe in Germany, Australia, Holland, Norway, England… Every year, they travel slightly farther afield and find some new remote corner of the globe to reside in.

There is no denying how humble he is about his work either. “It’s a real pleasure to have people want to have your work in their home,” he confides. No customer is taken for granted.

While he may have slowed down slightly in the last couple of years, he is still very much enjoying every moment of carving. The idyllic setting of his studio, overlooking Minnicock Lake, certainly inspires.

And his story, we hope, inspires as well.

For more information about Kim Warne’s work and his studio Soundings: Discoveries in Stone & Fabric (in partnership with Wilma), please go to www.soapstonecarvings.com

GTA high school comes to check out the finer “points” of felting and carving

April 4, 2012 § Leave a comment

Once again, the Haliburton School of The Arts played host to another high school – this one from the GTA.

They pioneered our first soapstone carving workshop with Kim Warne of Soundings Studio, and explored the techniques of felting, both wet and dry.

Have a browse through the gallery to see the abounding creativity these students brought to the table…

For more information on booking a high school workshop, please contact Ashley Kirby at akirby@flemingc.on.ca

To learn about the programs that we offer, please go to www.hsta.ca

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