It seems a universal rule: Beautiful islands inspire artists, the way fertile gardens inspire chefs, and British Columbia's Mayne Island has its share of resident artists.
It seems a universal rule: Beautiful islands inspire artists, the way fertile gardens inspire chefs.
British Columbia’s Mayne Island has its share of resident artists. How the island influences their work seemed a question worth exploring:
Sculpting her island life
Artist M.D. Hennessy came to Mayne Island five years ago after nearby Victoria got too big and noisy. She says the island’s peace has helped her artwork and contributed the theme of a current work-in-progress she calls “Noises You Hear When It’s Quiet.”
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Her works are themed, human-figure sculptures that always start with a pair of shoes.
“Noises” started with, naturally, a pair of Hushpuppies, and with three experiences Hennessy, 60, recalls from her first months on the island:
• Hearing the gentle whoosh as a raven flew over her head.
• Walking on a windy day, hearing a sound like pages turning, and realizing it was loose madrona bark flapping in the breeze.
• Walking the Bennett Bay beach and hearing a scuttling sound, which she discovered was the rattle of crabs walking across rocks.
The sculpted figure she’s creating will include a raven feather, an arbutus branch with loose bark and a dried crab, reflecting her experiences.
“My work is nothing if not personal,” she says with a wry smile.
See her work at her Red Chair Studio, 509 Orchard Crescent, near Bennett Bay (250-539-3744).
Looking in ways
a camera can’t
Painter Jim McKenzie takes hundreds of photos around the Gulf Islands before he finds just the scene he wants to reproduce with an airbrush on canvas, in a realist style that is almost photographic.
McKenzie, 57, came to Mayne Island from Vancouver, B.C., in the 1980s. His scenes of sailboats moored in quiet bays, ferry deckhands at work, lighthouses and rocky beaches are intended to make people happy, he says, noting that people hanging artwork in a home or office like to be surrounded by “landscapes they grew up with.”
What’s the difference between one of his paintings and a large photograph?
“You experience a scene that impresses you and you go into the studio and try to reproduce your emotional response to what you were seeing,” not just what the camera might or might not capture, he says. “In painting, you can do anything — in fact, you have to rein it in.”
What’s his favorite vantage point from which to see the Gulf Islands?
“Right now I’m getting into kayaks. They take you places you haven’t been.”
See his work online at www.mckenziefineartgallery.ca.
Tourists love his banana slugs
Glass artist Mark Lauckner is probably best known for his banana slugs. And you can tell he’s kind of tired of that.
But banana slugs are emblematic of Mayne Island in the damper seasons, and once Lauckner started making glass slugs of all different colors at his Mayne Island Glass Foundry, the tourist trade wouldn’t let him stop.
“The slugs are insanely popular. If a person goes hiking anywhere they see slugs,” he says.
His glass slugs, sea stars, seahorses and other decorative wares are all made of recycled window glass in super-efficient glass furnaces of Lauckner’s own design. That green sensibility is naturally fostered by a resource-restricted island where recycling is a mania.
Besides touring his one-man foundry at the end of a leafy lane, visitors this summer may get another glimpse into Lauckner’s fascination with glass. He’s opening the Mayne Island Insulator Museum in a small wing at his foundry.
The free museum will feature part of what he claims to be Canada’s largest collection of electrical, telephone and railway insulators, the glass baubles of many shapes and colors that were a fixture of the landscape when they capped utility poles before modern insulated wiring made them obsolete.
Visit Mayne Island Glass Foundry (with gift shop) at 563 Aya Reach Road, near Georgina Point Lighthouse. See www.mayneislandglass.com.