As with all creative enterprises, the art world can be a pleasant community where artists thrive in imagination, or a formidable place that causes budding artists to re-evaluate their chosen profession.
Crafting the art is half the battle and attempting to have your art displayed at a gallery can be a daunting task for fresh-out-of-school artists. This is due to a number of factors, with the most considerable one being the competition from established artists.
Luckily, local gallery Harcourt House now has a setting to remove that inherent competition by renaming the Front Gallery to Art Incubator Gallery. The newly named area is focused on promoting the work of surfacing artists.
“It basically gives an opportunity for emerging artists to have their work displayed in an exhibition setting,” Harcourt House advisor Edmund Haakonson says.
Haakonson believes the gallery will be an excellent way for viewers to “dip their foot in the pool and experience art.”
“Harcourt House has always been an inviting place for anyone interested in art,” he says. “I think there’s always been an intimidation factor there, but Harcourt has never been a place only reserved for people who are knowledgeable about art.”
The Art Incubator concept was presented to Harcourt House’s board about two years ago by gallery executive director Jacek Malec.
“I think it will better reflect the nature and character of the young artists of Edmonton and the Greater Edmonton Area,” Malec says.
The current and first exhibition of the Art Incubator Gallery is Sora Park’s DVEX (Dance Venue Expo), a display of four cubical sculptures challenging normative social hierarchies, such as gender roles in dance venues and on the dance floor.
At first glance, Park’s sculptures look like three dimensional topographical maps, but upon closer inspection of the words “bar” and “stage”—you can see they are contorted, surreal floor plans of unorthodox dance venues.
“This exhibition deals with the juxtaposition between these imaginary dance floors and the traditional dance floor,” Park explains. “I basically wanted to state that even though I have created these imaginary venues, this common social hierarchy still exists.”
The idea for DVEX began three years ago when Park took up Latin dancing in Vancouver. After moving to Bergen, Norway for a Masters of Arts degree in Fine Art, she travelled much of Europe and observed its dance subculture. She approached the research as an ethnographer by immersing herself within the European dance scene.
Park discovered that in many European cities traditional dance is manipulated and almost taken out of context.
“The best example of this is with the traditional Angolan dance, Kizomba. Since Paris took this traditional dance, it has been sexualized and sensualized for the club scene,” she says. “In Angola, families use this dance for recreation. It’s a dance you do in your backyard with your kids. There’s nothing sexual about it. So now there’s a tension with the Parisian and Angolan dancers for who should take ownership of the dance.”
As an interdisciplinary artist, Park works with many artistic mediums. Interestingly enough, DVEX is her first experience working with sculpture.
“I wanted to challenge myself. It was much more physical activity than the art I’m used to making,” Park explains of the craft. “It’s more bodily. You really have to engage yourself with the art itself.”
“This space is meant to be a laboratory,” Malec says as he walks through Park’s exhibition.
“It’s meant for unconventional experimentation, artists can try out things here and share them with the people of Edmonton.”
For emerging artists like Park, the Art Incubator Gallery is a stepping-stone into the art world, as well as an experience of the lengthy process of having your art viewed by the public.
“I just graduated from school a year ago. So having been given this opportunity for a solo exhibition is huge for me,” Park says.
“I am also grateful that Harcourt House trusted me to set up my own exhibition. It shows that they really respect an artist’s voice. Even just having a separate room reserved for emerging artists like myself shows that they are interested in the development of the local art scene.”