Artists draw from memory at Mackin House

Kelsi James is set to play a song cycle at Mackin House this Saturday. photo supplied

Touch the right object and memory flares like a struck match. The dark of the past is suddenly, mysteriously, illuminated.

This Saturday, barring a massive snowfall, Coquitlam Heritage is hosting its opening reception for a new exhibit mixing art and local history entitled The Shape of Our Memories. Between a glass of wine and a few appetizers, guests are invited to stroll through concrete pieces of the past and other people’s memories.

The exhibit features work by Filipino Canadian artist Karl Mata Hipol. In an artists’ statement, Hipol writes about catching sight of a Kerosene lamp in Coquitlam Heritage’s database and recalling a story he heard growing up in the Philippines. The story, about flying termites, a lamp, and a mother’s unheeded warning, inspired Hipol’s artwork.

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Songwriter Kelsi James is set to unveil a cycle of melodies on Saturday night written after James worked through 100 Coquitlam Heritage photos.

“I drew my finger over these images, and was visited by the voices of women past (Side by Side), of queer folks past (Her & Me; Mayday), of Land past (All With You),” she writes in her artist statement.

The exhibition marks a departure, according to Mackin House heritage manager Markus Fahrner.

“In the past, items chosen for heritage and museum institutions were almost entirely associated with a white, mostly male, cis, straight viewpoint. Coquitlam Heritage recognizes that collections must be reinterpreted to remain valid in today’s diverse culture,” he explained to the Dispatch.

Coquitlam Heritage put out a call for artists to produce work based on items from the collection database.

“These were the ones that really struck us that we really also markedly different,” Fahrner explains of the five artists set to present work on Saturday.

James Groening, or Blue Sky, is a Burnaby-based Cree artist from Kahkewistahaw Band, Turtle Island.

Groening writes of being adopted by his white grandparents during the Sixties Scoop and removed from his heritage.

“His painting is about the destruction that the train brought to Indigenous people,” Fahrner notes. However, there’s a duality to the piece, he adds, noting the age of progress ushered in by the train.

The reception is set to run from 7 to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday. Attendees must be 19 or older. More information here.

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