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Posted: July 14, 2022

Metamorphosis in soapstone and painting

By Mike Redfern

You may quite rightly expect, from the title of the exhibition, Journey to the Butterfly, to see depictions of that insect in the Gallery at Centre 64 but such is not the case; there is not a butterfly to be seen.

What you will see in Revelstoke artist Barbara Maye’s exhibition of soapstone sculptures and mixed media paintings is an exploration of the transformation that takes place geologically to produce the fascinating range of colours and textures to be found in the metamorphic rock we know as soapstone. The journey of a lowly caterpillar through chrysalis to beautifully coloured and patterned butterfly seems a suitable metaphor.

The exhibition contains 34 soapstone carvings, 28 of which are referred to as flipstone soapstone carvings because the artist would like you to pick them up and flip them over to view them from different perspectives. The remaining six carvings are too heavy to handle and are to be viewed in the traditional way, by walking round the pedestals on which they are displayed.

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

Barbara Maye has produced an explanatory pamphlet which is well worth reading if you are lucky enough to find one available in the gallery. As well as information about her carvings and paintings it includes an explanation of the healing properties and the magical energy that Maye has found in working with both mica and soapstone.

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

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

Maye was inspired to create this body of work by her mentorship with Revelstoke prospector and carver Mark McKay from whom she learned about geology and metamorphic rock transformation. It was during her harvesting of soapstone with him that she found a stone with a butterfly watermark which she felt was emblematic of the way in which rock is transformed by the catastrophic forces it undergoes. She left the butterfly stone in place to inspire others.

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

Maye’s early paintings depict her search for soapstone among 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 experienced.

The exhibition opened at Centre 64 on July5 and runs until July 30. The gallery is open from 1 to 5 p.m. each Tuesday through Saturday and admission is free. It was brought o Kimberley with the aid of grants from the Canada Council and the Columbia Kootenay Cultural Alliance.

Photos submitted

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