Works from Spruce Grove artist Amy Sallenbach are being featured in a compelling exhibit called ‘Orbit’ being showcased at the Harris-Warke Gallery downtown (upstairs in Sunworks).
The mixed media exhibit featuring a fascinating, enormous mobile made of ‘found’ objects plus several compelling portraits runs through to March 22nd and a ‘First Friday’ reception is set for March 1st from 6 to 8 p.m.
There is something downright dream-like about the entire collection, and visitors will be struck by Sallenbach’s absolutely unique means of self-expression, fuelled by a rich and clearly colourful, imaginative approach.
Sallenbach is a multi-disciplinary artist and pilot who has purposefully left the constraints of gravity behind, one way or another, notes her bio.
She graduated with a BFA in Fibre from the Alberta College of Art and Design in 2001, narrowly escaping attending her own final graduating jury critique by going in to labor immediately after installing it.
She has since exhibited throughout western Canada and in private collections coast to coast.
“I didn’t really get into art until late in junior high,” she explained during a recent chat. It proved a wise and pivotal move – she even sold a piece of work during a sale at that time as well.
From there, she knew she could very well have found her calling. “The right teacher can make all the difference, too.”
Her artistic focus only grew stronger – she chose her high school because it had a very well developed art program.
“There I was exposed to ceramics, jewelry making, painting – I had the run of the painting studio! It was great, and it really solidified my decision to go onto art school.”
Her years at Alberta College of Arts and Design also proved an exhilarating experience.
“It can be quite shocking your first year, because when you are in high school, you tend to be that one who does the art really well – there are two or three of you so it’s kind of special,” she laughed. “And then you get thrown into hundreds of people who were also the ‘special’ people in the class!
“So there is a steep learning curve, and you are exposed to so much. All of the artwork that informs me now, I was exposed to then.”
In the years following, she worked hard to keep up with her artwork but life, as it tends to do, simply became more hectic.
But the spark was always there, and these days, she’s able to spend more time creating more fascinating pieces and projects. “I never stopped, but it takes a lot to lift a career off of the ground. And the learning – I’m in the first three years now of declaring, I’m into this, I’m doing it and I’m making it happen.”
And speaking of which, ‘Orbit’ is quite the mesmerizing feat.
She explained that the early 80s movie The Dark Crystal was part of the inspiration behind her interest in mobiles to begin with. According to her artist’s statement, “The Orbit mobiles are (also) an investigation into my childhood desire to become an astronaut.
“While utilizing found and collected objects, Orbit (also) speaks of boundless possibility juxtaposed with material excess.
“They are time machines made of heat, debris and memory. They are the toys of our theories circling the same dogmas over again until understanding expands, and we perceive a whole new universe. The form the mobiles take reference early astronomical and navigational equipment circa the 13th to 19th centuries.”
It’s amazing what can be done with ‘found’ objects, which can also carry secondary meanings as they become part of a work of art, she explained. “They were functional and now they are imaginative. But they are still functional,” she added.
“I’ll always tinker with stuff, but what makes me really passionate about it now is that it’s ‘time’. I’ve waited a long time to have this stage,” she said of her craft. “There is a never-ending number of things to discover, and I’ve learned not to be afraid of making mistakes. I’ve learned to not be afraid of making ‘bad’ art – it’s going to happen,” she added with a laugh. “And I’ve learned to just enjoy every aspect of the process.”
She’s also thrilled with how the current exhibit has come together.
“This is the first time the mobiles have been put all together, mounted, lit properly and there is still more that I want to do to it,” she said. “But it’s very satisfying to see the actual group come together the way that it was meant to. It’s been wonderful.”
Meanwhile, Sallenbach is always looking ahead for new ventures to dive into. It’s been and continues to be an exciting and fulfilling journey.
“I’m always seeking out ways to challenge myself, and to keep that personal improvement going.”