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Quilts woven into the artwork

Roxanna Thompson
Northern News Services
Published Thursday, January 15, 2009

LIIDLII KUE/FORT SIMPSON - From a distance, many of the pieces currently on display at the OSC Gallery in Fort Simpson could be mistaken as paintings.

Step closer, however, and you'll discover that fabric and thread, not paint, are actually forming the colours and textures. The OSC Gallery's third exhibition, called Stitches East-Stitches West, contains the fibre based work of two Canadian artists.

Outstanding in Her Field, a studio art quilt by Sonja Ohlmann, is one of the pieces on display at the OSC Gallery in Fort Simpson as part of the Stitches East-Stitches West exhibition. - Roxanna Thompson/NNSL photo

Sonja Ohlmann from Leduc, Alta., and Carmella Karijo Rother from Ottawa both create their artworks with fabric but that's where the similarities end. Ohlmann's pieces, which include two portraits, contain pictorial images while Rother's layered and balanced compositions are reminiscent of abstract paintings.

The juxtaposition of the two artists and the themes of urban versus rural and east versus west was the intended effect when the two artists were paired, said Michael Blyth, the programming co-ordinator for the Open Sky Society, which runs the gallery.

Last spring, the gallery sent out a call for submissions both in the North and across the country. The society's board sorted through the replies and made recommendations to Blyth.

Ohlmann and Rother, who applied separately, both made it past the initial cut.

Blyth chose to combine the two artists into one show because they use the same medium but in very different ways.

"I think it works quite well actually," said Blyth, surveying the 10 pieces that are hanging in the gallery.

Blyth individually picked the pieces from each collection with an eye to the ones that would complement each other. The exhibition, which opened on Dec. 19 and will run until Jan. 30 has been well received.

"People have been pretty impressed by the craftsmanship in the pieces here," he said.

For artist Sonja Ohlmann, the exhibition is the fulfillment of a goal.

Since creating a few pieces with Northern themes, including Northern Eyes II, which is included in the exhibit, Ohlmann has wanted to display her work in the North.

"I've been hoping to for a long time," she said.

Ohlmann was excited by the trip her artwork took to reach the village, which included a helicopter shuttle across the unfrozen Liard River.

"I thought my goodness, my art quilts have more of a life than I do," Ohlmann said.

Ohlmann describes her artwork as studio art quilts to identify them as something that belongs on a wall and not on a bed. The pieces are representational, pictorial and often tell a story.

One of the pieces in the exhibition, Outstanding in Her Field," is a pun on the male world where this term usually means being well known in the business community, she said. The term means something different for Ohlmann because of her farming background.

"For us my husband is literally out standing in his field most days," she said.

The quilt also shows that women can be outstanding in the field of business or in a field of grain both in the past, present and future.

"I found it very interesting, very fun to do," Ohlmann said about this piece.

Stitches East-Stitches West will be followed at the gallery by a floor-based exhibit by artist Genevieve Sideleau from Kirkland, Que. The gallery would then like to do a group show with works from various Deh Cho artists. Anyone interested in participating is asked to submit images of works for consideration.