“Second Chance - Journey to the Butterfly”: soapstone sculptures, flipstones, drawings and paintings that invite contact, interaction, and introspection.
Born on the prairies, Barbara Maye found herself moving and travelling as a nomadic seeker for decades. But when she hugged her first Giant Cedar near Radium in 2005, she knew she had finally found home in BC.
Inspired by Indigenous beliefs from around the globe, and the spiritual wisdom of healing energies both in our bodies and in entities of nature, Barbara’s artworks acknowledge the origins; wood as tree, stone as mountain, and body as spirit.
As a multimedia artist, sculptor, and art instructor based in Revelstoke, BC, Barbara has dedicated more than 20 years to creating art that invites contact, interaction, and introspection. By presenting close-up perspectives of figural movement, pure abstraction and objects from nature, her method invites the passive observer to interact and self-identify with the art.
This summer, Barbara is presenting not one, but two art exhibitions in Kimberley, BC. After a successful solo art exhibition at the Centre 64 Gallery where she filled the main gallery with her soapstone sculptures and paintings, Barbara’s journey continues with a completely new art exhibition at Art Gallery Kimberley. “Second Chance - Journey to the Butterfly” will feature Barbara’s soapstone sculptures, as well as multi-media/multi-genre paintings and drawings inspired by the story of soapstone.
According to Barbara, soapstone is the result of a metamorphosis. “Like the transformation to a butterfly inside the chrysalis, soapstone undergoes a complete physical restructuring when the correct environmental conditions are present. The resulting rock is coloured uniquely by the minerals present and the flow of the molten experience. It is understandable why many honour soapstone for its healing properties associated with openness, flexibility, communication, imagination, and change”, says Barbara.
Emulating this rolling, molten formation, Barbara created her innovative Flipstones, which are interactive sculptures that you are encouraged to pick up, examine closely, and ‘flip’ into a new resting position. By changing the position of the Flipstones, you shift the initial perspective for the next person and create an ever-changing art exhibition.
“When carving stone, I am deeply aware of the release of energy stored in the stones over millennia”, says Barbara. “My free-form style of carving is a co-creation process with the stone, during which my role is to help the stone take a new form to express itself. I see myself as merely a channel for creative energy to flow through.”
Barbara uses soapstone dust and rock chips from her carving studio to create rich textures in her paintings. This texture can be found in her Landscape paintings – which are memories of locations visited in search of soapstone; her Lava Study paintings exploring the stones’ metamorphosis; and in the Emergence series paintings, where she expresses the euphoria of post-transformation.
Immediately after graduating from the University of Calgary with a Bachelor of Fine Arts with Distinction, Barbara studied with Chaka Chikodzi, a Zimbabwean Canadian master stone carver. He taught her the Shona people’s way to carve; approach the rocks with respect and no expectations then co-create the form intuitively. This ignited a passion for stone carving and the free-form style Barbara practices to this day.
Deeply influenced by the generous teachings of Noreen E. Saddleback of the Samson Cree Nation and Elder Bart Thomas, Splatsin Band, Guardian and Knowledge Keeper of the Secwepemc First Nation, Barbara’s artworks respectfully explore Nature for the arcane wisdom she holds.
It took 10 years to realise Barbara’s dream of harvesting stone directly from the land to carve, but Mark McKay, a retired carver and prospecting took her on a mentorship in the mountains surrounding Revelstoke. Understanding the tectonics (earth processes) that form soapstone, locating and respectfully harvesting the raw stone and the original locations of the rocks all inform the creation process of Barbara’s abstract sculptures - some carved into Flipstones and some in the traditional pedestal style.
When asked what she enjoys most about creating art, Barbara says “I think what I like most about art are the gifts found in the ‘happy accidents’. If we can stay open minded during the creative process, a mistake can be a generous reward. It’s how the Flipstones came to be. I was carving a large stone and at the very end, it broke into 5 pieces. Yes I was upset, but it taught me about stone fractures, and acceptance that the stones were in charge. Later I picked up those pieces and turned them into multiple-position, interactive sculptures … and the concept of interplay and changing perspectives is the language of my work today.“
Barbara says the greatest challenge she faces during the creation of her art is her mind getting in the way. “I try to approach my work like meditation, keeping my critical mind quiet. But overthinking and self-criticism are my nemesis. The techniques I discover and practice to overcome this challenge are the methods I teach in my art classes.”
As an art instructor, Barbara strives to make the language of art more attainable to everyone. She began teaching while in university and continues today as a freelance and on-line instructor of primarily adult art education classes in several media. Barbara’s teaching philosophy is rooted in the belief that anyone, given a fresh perspective, can recapture their creative voice.
“I think my greatest pride as an artist comes from teaching; seeing the opening in a student as they recognize their creative self; sharing what I have learned in my own creative journey; and the genuine friendships that have evolved from the classroom.” says Barbara. “I have many students who have continued classes with me for years, just to keep their practice going, and several who have gone on to exhibit and sell their work as much better artists than me. It’s so rewarding to be a small piece of their growth.”
Barbara’s exhibition will be in the art gallery from August 3 to 27, 2022. The art gallery will be participating in this year’s Columbia Basin Culture Tour on August 6th and 7th. As part of this tour, Barbara will be presenting a slide show on Abstract Art and she will set up art creation stations introducing visitors to: Upside Down Drawing; Drawing on our Senses; Surrealist Inspired Abstraction; and Fauvist Inspired Abstraction. More information can be found at artgallerykimberley.com.