Metamorphosis in soapstone and paint


By Mike Redfern

You might rightly expect, from the title of the exhibition, Journey to the Butterfly, to see representations of this insect in the gallery of Center 64, but this is not the case; there is not a butterfly to be seen.

What you’ll see in Revelstoke artist Barbara Maye’s exhibition of soapstone sculptures and mixed media paintings is an exploration of the transformation that occurs geologically to produce the fascinating range of colors and textures found in the metamorphic rock we know as soapstone. The journey from a humble caterpillar through the chrysalis to a beautifully colored and patterned butterfly seems an apt metaphor.

The exhibit contains 34 soapstone sculptures, 28 of which are called flipstone soapstone sculptures because the artist would like you to pick them up and turn them over to see them from different angles. The remaining six sculptures are too heavy to handle and should be viewed in the traditional way, walking around the plinths on which they are displayed.

While these sculptures fill the floor space of the gallery, the walls are filled with 32 acrylic paintings, many with mica grain or crumbled soapstone adding texture. Earlier paintings are quite small but the dimensions increase in later pieces.

Barbara Maye has produced an explanatory brochure which is worth reading if you are lucky enough to find one available in the gallery. Along with information about his sculptures and paintings, it includes an explanation of the healing properties and magical energy Maye found working with both mica and soapstone.

The sculptures are free-form sculptures, abstract organic shapes that the artist often whimsically titled to reflect an image she saw in the finished form. The titles do not suggest what the carvings represent.

The sculptures were first carved with a variety of hand and power tools, then sanded and polished, with the stones being heated to better absorb the polish which brings out the natural colors of the stone. The wide range of colors and textures created by soapstone minerals is amazing.

Maye was inspired to create this body of work by her mentorship with Revelstoke prospector and sculptor Mark McKay from whom she learned about geology and the transformation of metamorphic rocks. It was while harvesting soapstone with him that she found a stone with a butterfly filigree that seemed to her emblematic of how rock is transformed by the catastrophic forces it experiences. She left the butterfly stone in place to inspire others.

She was also inspired by the Zimbabwean/Canadian stone carver Chaka Chikodzi with whom she studied and from whom she learned the language of stone, the wisdom of stone and learned the KISS principle (keep it simple, stupid ).

Maye’s early paintings depict his search for soapstone in the mountains near Revelstoke. Her later paintings depict the physical aspects of metamorphosis, as in her lava paintings, as well as the stages of spiritual growth she underwent and the magical energy she felt.

The exhibition opened at Center 64 on July 5 and will run until July 30. The gallery is open from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday and admission is free. It was imported from Kimberley with grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance.

Photos submitted


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