Blind artist spearheads collaborative art project at Creston gallery

Beyond the Horizon will be exhibited at the Tilted Art Gallery in November

Ruth Bieber, a blind local artist, has created a collaborative art project with three other artists called Beyond the Horizon. (Photo from artist Win Dinn)

Ruth Bieber, a blind local artist, has created a collaborative art project with three other artists called Beyond the Horizon. (Photo from artist Win Dinn)

Submitted by Ruth Bieber

At the Tilted Brick Gallery in Creston B.C., patrons will soon be able to experience a new collaborative art exhibition.

Blind artist Ruth Bieber created “Beyond the Horizon” with three local Creston artists – Win Dinn, Lisa Benschop, and Marnie Temple.

The original inspiration was for Bieber to have three very different collaborative experiences with three very different sighted artists, and that she did! But, more about that and them later. For the moment, we are entering the gallery. Prepare for a whole-body experience with colour, texture, and sound.

“Welcome to my world,” Bieber said.

Traditionally an artistic director of her own theatre company, Bieber moved to New York City (NYC) in 2008 where she began her blind art education by becoming involved with the Art Beyond Sight Institute. Talk about an eye-opening experience!

She always loved art, but the idea of becoming an artist seemed out of reach. After all, how can blind people make art? Well, turns out there are quite a few blind artists, who can in very different ways respond to this question. In fact, after Bieber relocated to Kelowna, B.C. in 2010, she was the curator of an exhibition of four blind artists including Busser Howell from NYC, Bruce Horak from Toronto, Eriko Watanabe from Germany, and PJ Lockhart from Kelowna. Each artist featured was as incredibly diverse, just like blind people in general.

While in Kelowna, Bieber also picked up the brush, figuratively speaking, and began painting using a spontaneous art process inspired by art educator Karen Close. Weekly classes were offered at the Rotary Centre for the Arts. Close, a true artist from the heart is the editor of the online Sageing Magazine, and often refers to artist/academic Lisa Lipsett from Salt Spring Island, as being one of the true inspirations behind the spontaneous art movement.

With great gusto, Bieber entered the world of spontaneous art, and thus enjoyed several exhibitions of her own art during her six years in Kelowna. Many of her paintings were independently created, but some were in collaboration with local artists.

In November 2016, she moved to Creston, B.C. where theatre once again became her primary focus, although while touring her multimedia solo, part of the backdrop consisted of six of her original paintings. Then in 2020, Bieber was successful in receiving a major project grant through the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance. The goal was to create a body of art individually, with three local Creston artists and have the unique processes filmed in a 10-minute documentary. Enter awar- winning videographer Mark Wolfe from Westword Communications. The documentary titled, “Do You See What I See?” is an integral part of the exhibition, and includes description for blind viewers. In just 17 short minutes, Wolfe manages to capture some true essences, as these relate to the very different and unique art experience with three very different artist collaborators.

To learn more from Wolfe, check out the “Artist Talk” on Wednesday, Nov. 3 at 6:30 p.m. at the Art Space, located at 112 Northwest Boulevard.

In this talk, Wolfe joins Bieber for a tag team review of the project documentary in described video. Viewers actually will have the opportunity to experience portions of the 17-minute film twice – once with, and again without blindfolds. Audience feedback and discussion will follow.

The Beyond the Horizon exhibition will be on display in November at the Tilted Brick Gallery, located at 101 Canyon Street. Opening day will be on Saturday, Nov. 6 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The exhibition is colourful, with an invitation to feel the art, both literally and figuratively. Enter artist Win Dinn, who loves colour and claims we should always be allowed to touch the art! And can you say layers? During their collaborative creative months together, Bieber and Dinn had up to ten artworks on the go at any given time. Each layer needed to dry so Bieber could feel the piece in order to make suggestions as to what comes next, together with Dinn’s tutelage. Toward the end of their creative time together, it was a challenge to focus on only two final pieces with more drying time and less face to face interation.

To learn more about their artistic journey together, head to windinnart.blogspot.com and type in “Ruth” in the search bar to peruse the posts.

On another note, creating with Lisa Benschop was a very different experience. Whereas Dinn loves to feel the art once completed, Benschop enjoys feeling the process prior to creating. There was lots of time given to feeling and processing her way through the variety of ideas she and Bieber discussed, with a desire for a whole-body experience with the sculptures – feeling, hearing, and a good amount of wondering. Oh yes, and viewers will experience more colour, texture, and sound using wire coat hangers, hundreds of strips of cloth, and more. These intricate parts will replicate the chakra system of the human body. How curious!

Finally, Bieber initially planned to spend some time doing a residency at the “Empire of Dirt” run by Marnie Temple, who also happens to run the Tilted Brick Gallery. Well, the pandemic made mincemeat of that idea, so creativity of thought became the name of their collaborative experience. Temple completed a painting, which was inspired by Bieber with more colour and texture. Bieber then completed a painting inspired by Temple, featuring plenty of sanding, and some curious colour. Both artists created in their own studio spaces, independently. Next up, through much conversation and conceptualization, Temple agreed to create some signage in the gallery, that revealed the theme of “Feel What I See”. But the world of the blind artist isn’t complete without a surprise! Just ask Bieber every time she leaves the safe confines of her condo, every time she puts her hands on a painting finally dry enough to touch, or every time she gets to experience a piece of artwork only previously conceptualized.

And, speaking of surprises, what about that pandemic?

“Nicholas Meyer suggested that great art comes from restrictions, and I take that to heart,” said Bieber.

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