The parcel is wrapped in cardboard and, judging from the stamps outside and the lettering on the packing materials, from Mexico.
White Rock artist Alicia M.B. Ballard signs for it at the entrance foyer of her apartment building, then carries it up to the work table in her apartment/studio.
Eagerly she rips the layers of wrapping away from the medium sized canvas board to reveal the colourful creation on its surface.
It’s the latest piece in an ever evolving puzzle – “a coat of many colours,” she describes it.
It began with her own idea in White Rock, but is taking on dimensions that she can only guess at.
In fact, aside from Ballard herself and facilitators Camille Owens and Niamh Tracy, who have contributed invaluable time and skill in making the project a reality, few will know the final form the FiberFusion mural will take prior to its formal unveiling tonight (Thursday) at White Rock Museum and Archives, 14970 Marine Dr.
The multimedia work by the Virtuosi Infragranti – a collective of some 30 international artists from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Mexico, Peru, Romania, Spain, the U.S. and Venezuela, organized online by Ballard – will receive its first viewing by the general public on Saturday.
Some of the six Canadian participants in FiberFusion (Ballard, Wendy Blackshaw Humphrey, Robin de Lavis, Pauline McLean Dutkowski, Katherine Siemens and Laara WilliamSen) will be on hand at 11 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. to discuss their segments of the piece.
Aside from the sheer diversity and mystery of the undertaking, another exciting aspect of the FiberFusion exhibit is that, after its Canadian launch at the museum – it will be on display locally throughout the month of September – the unique piece will be on tour for more than two years, travelling to a wide variety of venues internationally, including galleries in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Spain and Italy.
It’s being presented by the museum as one of the major events of the seven-week Outside The Box festival celebrating fibre art in the city.
That began with an informal discussion with Outside the Box organizer Dutkowski last fall, Ballard acknowledges.
“I was meeting with her for lunch, and from the time I left my place to when I met her, I had the whole idea,” she said.
A previous participant in international touring shows, and a firm advocate of solidarity and sharing among international artists through such social media as Facebook and Skype, Ballard had been struck by the notion of the “threads that bind us” as a creative extension of Dutkowski’s theme.
“I refer to it as a project of artists without borders,” she said. “Art has no (specific) nationality or religion.”
And FiberFusion definitely fits any definition of “outside the box,” Ballard notes.
For although she had determined an overall plan, design and colour scheme into which a patchwork of specific-sized canvas board panels would fit, until all the international contributions had rolled in, she couldn’t say with any certainty the final product would even fit the announced dimensions of six-by-nine feet.
She has also learned that, no matter how explicit the instructions they are given, artists will be artists – pushing, and sometimes ignoring, the limits of colour and scale, or else endlessly querying her about the parameters.
“You wouldn’t believe the emails!” Ballard exclaimed.
For some of the artists, the fibre content has been the canvas board itself, while others have incorporated a wide variety of threads and textiles into their compositions.
Although Ballard set rules for a certain colour balance and border approach designed to make each board dovetail with the others and fit into the overall design, she has given the artists a free hand in terms of style and subject matter.
Just how the diverse elements will work with each other is an element of suspense that will only be dispelled when viewers see the entire exhibit, although it’s a fair bet the FiberFusion mural will demand lengthy and detailed viewing to discover all the riches in each piece of the puzzle.
And the juxtaposition of elements will add an unpredictable dimension to the FiberFusion mural, Ballard agreed.
For all the heartaches and emotional stress involved in co-ordinating such an international effort, the final product has been worth it, Ballard maintains – and true to the artistic process.
“The final product becomes a new reality – that’s what happens with art,” she said.
“I have a predetermined idea of what I want to include in a composition, and in a matter of hours the work acquires a life of its own and determines what I am going to do.”
For information on the public opening of FiberFusion, call 604-536-4547.
For more background on Ballard’s work and the international artists collective, visit www.theterrastudios.com or www.virtuosiinfraganti.com