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Boom | Valerie Zink and Rick Pelletier (curated by Amber Andersen and toured by OSAC) | Gallery 2

March 3rd - April 21st, 2017

Rick Pelletier, Train Bin , Inkjet Print, 2015 (detail)


Featuring Rick Pelletier and Valerie Zink

‘Walking the road less travelled, the works of Rick Pelletier and Valerie Zink shed light onto a crude situation.’

Curated by Amber Andersen

The mirror image of ‘boom’ is ‘bust’. This exhibition reflects on these irrevocably intertwined concepts through the lens of recent events in rural Alberta and Saskatchewan. Booms make for ingenuity, with people drawn to a promise of work and a better future getting creative in finding ways to survive amongst the fray of industry.

Valerie Zink, Pumpjacks, archival ink on paper, 2014.

Through the photography of Rick Pelletier and Valerie Zink, Boom seeks to explore the effects industry has on communities. Rather than critiquing the industries that determine a rapid economic upturn, this exhibition focuses on the human component – the workers and community members themselves. Complex and nuanced, the experience of participating in a boom is not often a straightforward narrative. Higher salaries and available work are driving factors for rapid population growth. However, with a massive increase in population comes the negative effect of a decrease in quality of life, from lack of housing to failing infrastructure, not to mention possible geographical isolation and the disruption of local culture. Yet, there are positives, increased profits for businesses, increase in jobs, and an influx of people from diverse cultures. This exhibition seeks to explore both sides from the standpoint of the people involved a boom.

In his artist statement, Pelletier talks about his fascination with the lives of the travelers on the TransCanada highway. Where were they going? Where did they come from? His curiosity led him to travel the minor rural highways of Saskatchewan and Alberta. As a resident of British Columbia, what he discovered was disturbing to him. His ideal notion of quaint small towns and family run farms/ranches were now corporate owned, feeding a frenzy of non-renewable resource extraction. This discovery led to a captivating series of photographs examining the change that was occurring in these areas. Although his feelings on the changing landscape are more critical, this is seemingly not transferred into the photographs. Often focusing on landscapes devoid of human subjects, this somehow seems to heighten human presence even more so. Pelletier’s documentary-style photos are his observation of these spaces, now augmented and changed by their occupants. Although these people are not often in the photos themselves, their traces indicate their presence.

Rick Pelletier, installation view (rigth to left) Family Doctors Needed, Cold Light of Day, A Young Canadian, Train Bin, Game Over, Learnin' To Pipeline, Road Range Family, Ropin' Oil, inkjet print, 2012-2015.

Valerie Zink’s photographs are reminiscent of small prairie towns anywhere. Sprinkled throughout, however, are artworks that particularly highlight the unique situations and sights reserved for those living in a boomtown. Teresa and Julian shows a couple sitting together in a loving embrace on a single bed in Estevan, Saskatchewan. The viewer is asked to make sense of what this tight accommodation means. This image portrays a situation that arises from too many people, due to a massive influx of workers needing a place to stay that, if it exists, is at a cost restrictive to living there. This is an all too familiar situation for many workers. Zink is interested in the human experience. Her images focus on the people, not the industries that brought them here. There is sympathy in her work for the workers, the transient populations, and the residents, for the people living and working in these situations. She, like Pelletier, cares to give voice to these people, and encourage discussion about their experience.

Valerie Zink, installation view (right to left) Teresa and Julian, Canstay Motel, Centre Street, Roughneck, Pumpjacks, Hunger Strike, all archival ink on paper, 2014.

Throughout history, booming economies have come and gone within Canada, transforming the new construction of once robust centres into the skeletal remains of ghost towns across the landscape. Not all communities that boom go bust. Boom economics, arguably, motivated the formation of Canada by way of the fur trade. Just as beaver fur hats did not stay in fashion, the output of boom economies is often tied to the fickle demands of global markets that change with frequency just like the people who inhabit them. What does remain consistent throughout history and changing communities is the to need to capture these epochs. Artists interpret experiences that would otherwise be lost in the shuffle of time, people, places and industry. Rick Pelletier and Valerie Zink are two of these artists who give us a thoughtful glimpse into a history not far from anyone’s memory.

-From a pamphlet published by OSAC and circulated with the exhibition.

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