What is it that connects us as residents of the Columbia Basin? That’s the question that is asked, and artist Michael Hepher hopes, answered, with the latest show at Kimberley’s Centre 64 gallery.
The exhibit is called ‘In This Together’ and according to Hepher it’s a visual vocabulary of just what it means to live here. What connects us.
“My goal was to visit other communities to paint, to listen, to learn about what makes us unique, and what binds us together,” he said. “The seed of this show was borne out of the Fernie Mural Project in 2019, well before Covid-19 was on our radar, and acting as a greater community has only become increasingly important since then.”
He describes his journey painting this show as leaning on friends and strangers to talk about their homes, and soaking up everything he could, through photographs and historical records.
He camped and travelled the region.
“What I thought I would find was a land with distinct geographical areas, diverse colour palettes, and incisive insights into each place. What I ended up finding was a whimsical, colourful, subjective wander through a world of trees, bright bodies of water, and bunches of homes nestled among the hills. Accompanying me on my wanderings were a cast of characters: osprey, fish, squirrels and bears—the beings whose homes we actually inhabit—and a lingering understanding that above all it is nature that connects us. I feel now more fully that we are part of nature, not above or outside it, and our world
includes the trees and the snakes and the herons. We cannot live here without them.
“The joy of my discoveries were tempered at times by the (literal) unearthing of some of the darker parts of our human
history. As a European descendent, my complicity in the colonization of the beautiful people, rivers, and stories of the
Ktunaxa people, and my benefit of a system that oppressed and killed their children in the place I now live weighed heavily on me and brought out darker colours and sombre scenes—they are hard to face, but important to acknowledge because moving forward means a long, level look at myself and a willingness to listen and learn.
“In the end my hope is that the viewer will find a bit of themselves somewhere in this show, as well as a bit of
something new or surprising. This series of paintings and limited edition prints is purposefully accessible as it explores the universal parts of the Kootenays in an attempt to show that while there are things we disagree on, and values we don’t share, we need each other to preserve and protect this place we live. We are truly in this together, and to move forward we must find ways to act in each others’ interests. We are colourful, we are imperfect, but we have each other and we have hope.”
The show hangs at Centre 64 until October 23, 2021.