From left: Kat Siemens, Susan Falk and Marilyn Dyer have issued an invitation for the public to join them for a cup of tea in a home and garden-style setting as they present Better Nudes & Gardens at White Rock’s Landmark Pop-Uptown Gallery. Joining them will be artist Tony O’Regan (not pictured). Contributed photo

Better Nudes Gardens at White Rock’s Pop-Uptown Gallery

Figurative studies, floral images, vintage wareables abound in exhibit

Just about everyone has heard of Better Homes & Gardens, the magazine that has dispensed decorating, gardening, culinary and better living advice for close to 100 years.

On one level, Better Nudes & Gardens – title of the new show of art works and vintage wearables (and some up-cycled furniture) coming into White Rock’s Landmark Pop-Uptown Gallery from March 4 – is a tongue-in-cheek nod to that tradition.

The exhibition, combining the talents of well-known painters and arts educators Susan J. Falk, Tony O’Regan, Marilyn Dyer and multi-media artist Kat Siemens, emphasizes an atmosphere of graceful living.

That includes an invitation for the public to join them for a cup of tea in a home and garden-style setting throughout the show.

A more formal opening reception will be held Saturday, March 7, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m.

But Better Nudes & Gardens has evolved – as collaborative shows will – into a unique statement of its own.

In keeping with the title, figurative studies will abound, of course – many drawn from the regular open life-drawing sessions started by Falk and O’Regan for Semiahmoo Arts at the South Surrey Recreation and Arts Centre.

So, too, will garden and floral references.

The environmentally-sensitive messages of Dyer’s recent work, however, and the ecological subtext of Siemen’s up-cycled vintage jewelry and fabric creations (which she is teaming with re-invented furniture pieces by Catherine Honeywell) point toward another intepretation of the title – the need to promote a better relationship between humankind and the ‘garden’ of the Earth.

“I think that’s something we forget – that we are all part of that garden,” Dyer said.

Falk explained the title is actually borrowed from a fondly-remembered art show on which she and O’Regan once collaborated.

“Tony and I put on a show together in White Rock many years ago, called Better Nudes & Gardens, that we’d organized with graduate design students from SFU, and we also invited a lot of local artists involved in life-drawing like Elizabeth Hollick – and one of our favourite models of that time, Rebecca Cohen, who did short poses during the show.”

Interestingly, Falk said, her collaboration with Siemens began as an artist-model relationship.

“Kat is one of my favourite models at Semiahmoo Arts, and we discovered that both of us have very similar backgrounds as professional make-up artists, and that we had the same teacher at the John Casablancas Institute in Vancouver, many years ago.”

Falk, who acknowledges the strong influence of French master Pierre Bonnard in her oil paintings linking figurative studies with outdoor environments, said she is working on three four-foot by four-foot canvases as her principal contribution to the show.

“They work collectively, or they can be separated, and each is a figurative piece from one of my life-studies. I took everything off one of my studio walls and pinned up all of my drawings from 2018 and 2019, stood back and chose what I wanted, so these are really the best of the best.”

Falk said the challenge has been to transform black and white charcoal gestural sketches into paintings in which the figures reflect the colours and light of her own Langley garden.

“It’s a wonderful game, and a risky game,” she said.

O’Regan will also contribute acrylics that incorporate his love of figurative work, Falk said, but also “his very, very strong background in architecture and design.”

Dyer, who worked for many years before her retirement as an arts educator, has embraced a wide variety of styles during her painting career, from realism to richly-coloured stylization and, more recently in pieces rendering landscapes as semi-abstract geometric forms.

“I’m kind of a visual philosopher,” she said. “When I was younger I wanted to paint things I liked and thought were beautiful, but now I want to make a statement with each piece.”

She is very much concerned, she said, with “everything we do with the environment.”

“I no longer just paint a picture,” she said. “I see the beauty of the subject, but I also see the analogy of it.”

Siemens, too, says her work, which includes jewelry, post-illustrationist mixed-media paintings, re-decorated travel cases and wearable art pieces and accessories is inspired by making best use of existing materials.

“There’s a really strong eco-conscious sense to what I do,” she said.

“We live in such a consumer-oriented, throwaway society, with so much ending up in landfills, that I want to utilize vintage, antique and second-hand materials in everything I do, to show that it can be truly beautiful again.”

Better Nudes & Gardens continues at the gallery, 15140 North Bluff Rd. (Central Plaza), until Saturday, March 28.

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