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Sidney’s Tulista Gallery hosts celebration of West Coast, artistic collaboration

Connections and Collaborations runs Nov. 18 to 25 and includes book launch
Wendy Picken holds up a copy of her new book Rainbees and Honeybows. The children’s book will launch Nov. 18 at the Tulista Gallery, which will also exhibit a week-long exhibition of the works of Picken’s collaborators. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)

An upcoming art show in Sidney that includes a book launch celebrates the collaborative process and the West Coast.

Connections and Collaborations, running Nov. 18 to 25 at Sidney’s Tulista Gallery on Fifth Street, features the works of Wendy Picken, Lorraine Douglas, Kerry O’Gorman, Heather Maciak and Mara Szyp.

“This show is called Connections and Collaborations because it brings things together that I just love about living on the West Coast,” said Picken, who will launch her new children’s book Rainbees and Honeybows during the show’s opening reception on Nov. 18 from 6 to 8 p.m. Pickens, who is spearheading the show, said she wanted to include people with whom she has worked in the past.

The work of Douglas, O’Gorman, Maciak and Szyp or at least their inspirations and subjects run through Picken’s book.

“When I was doing the illustrations for my book, I collaborated with Lorraine,” said Picken. “She did some of the calligraphy for some of the drawings, the illustrations in the book.”

Picken had been working on the book for 11 years. “And she (Douglas) just brought some new enthusiasm and new excitement into the project for me and I’m sure that is the reason I was able to finish it.”

The central character of the book goes by the name of Angelina Carolina Wilhelmina Figs, “a damselfly-mouse-bird-moth with an intricate mix of beetle-frog noses.” Picken said the inspiration for the character came from 19th-century English illustrator Edward Lear and his character Scroobious Pip. Picken said she just fell in love with that character after her daughter had received a copy of Lear’s non-sensical poem immortalizing Scroobious Pip, an animal of unknown taxonomy.

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Picken’s character follows that tradition and long-time friend O’Gorman felted a three-dimensional model of the character.

The story itself draws inspiration from Remedios Varo’s surrealistic painting Creation of the Birds with Picken moving the story to the West Coast. Broadly, it is an origin story with Angelina Carolina Wilhelmina Figs arriving on the West Coast after having blown in from France. To help set the scene, Picken drew on the work of Heather Maciak.

“I fell in love with the little sculptures that she does,” said Picken. “She just has such a passion for France and that is one of my passions that I express in the book through this main character.” Szyp, meanwhile, has captured many of the book’s locations in her paintings.

Picken admits that the story of a new arrival to the West Coast has some biographical elements to it, with the story inspired by the things that Picken has come to love about living on the West Coast. Picken was unfamiliar when she came to the region to study art, but quickly fell under its spell thanks in part to the writings and paintings of Emily Carr and has remained so.

“It’s still magical to me and I was always amazed that there wasn’t a fairy tale that was set on the West Coast.”

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