Kelwood artist Kathy Levandoski’s love for the Prairies is the inspiration behind her first-ever solo exhibit, titled “Gossamer and Ground,” opening Thursday at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba.
The Canadian Prairies are, according to Levandoski, an oft-overlooked jewel that people take for granted. Through her work, she seeks to give people a taste of what living in the small community of Kelwood, located 121 kilometres from Brandon, is like.
“It’s so peaceful compared to so many places in the world, and I love that. I feel so grateful to have been born here.”
Levandoski’s work is a combination of textiles and mixed media, which she uses to interpret her surroundings. She was taught to use the materials she had on hand from the women in her family.
“The resourcefulness I learned from my mom is a big thing,” Levandoski said. “In those days, you did not drive to the art store or the fabric store; you just made do with what you had. There’s a deepness and sparseness of materials.”
Oftentimes, Levandoski added, inspiration comes from the generosity of those in her community. Quilters she has met in her community frequently drop by to bring her bags of leftover fabric. One of those bags recently challenged Levandoski to create a piece for her “Gossamer and Ground” exhibit. The bag was full of fabric that she usually doesn’t receive — a mix of drapery samples, strips of terry cloth and more.
“I thought, ‘I need to do something just with this.’ So I combined it with some other scraps, but I basically created it within the last week, which was really challenging.”
Levandoski received a bachelor of fine arts honours degree from Brandon University in 2014, and has previously been featured at the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba’s (AGSM) 2016 community gallery exhibition, “Riding the Edge.”
It was during her time at university, which she started at age 50, that Levandoski learned to open her eyes even more to the beauty of the world around her, she said. Her professor had asked the class why they were not showcasing more of their surroundings in their work, and Levandoski realized how integral her surroundings truly were to her as an artist. She calls it a “turning point” in her life.
“It was in October, I remember distinctly, because I started looking around my vegetable garden, I started looking at the hills where I lived, and I started photographing things, and that’s where I began to take all my own inspiration … [from] things that had sort of become wallpaper to my life.”
Levandoski dove into the artistic study of her surroundings, extracting dye out of marigolds and photographing moth-eaten cabbage leaves for her thesis show.
“I really started looking at where I came from and appreciating it.”
Now, Levandoski is proud of her small community and its vibrant, growing art scene. From its community garden, which she helped plan, to the Harvest Sun music festival that took place last month, she encourages everyone to check out her work at the exhibit and what her community has to offer.
Levandoski’s work doesn’t just represent her home community, but the blending of the ordinary and extraordinary, said AGSM curator Lucie Lederhendler.
“Even more than a bridge … they’re superimposed,” she explained. “It’s even more than living there. It’s about having a legacy there.”
The AGSM will host an opening reception for Levandoski’s exhibit, and another mixed media and fibre exhibit called “Crossroads” at 7 p.m. Thursday, followed by a tour and public conversation with Levandoski and Lederhendler at 1 p.m. Friday.
The public is also invited to drop in on Wednesdays between 1 and 2 p.m. for a tour of the main gallery. Appointments for guided tours are also on Saturdays, for families or groups of up to 10 individuals. The exhibitions continue through to Nov. 12.
Miranda Leybourne, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun