Raising a chuckle takes skill and hard work
Sally Mann, whose work is featured at Rainforest Arts for the months of July and August, wants people to ‘have a chuckle’ viewing her art. That, as it turns out, is serious business. “My work doesn’t have to have a message,” she said. “If it makes somebody smile, or have a chuckle, then to me it’s working.”
Most recently Mann has been experimenting with papier-maché, treated with epoxy to make it durable and give it a finished glaze look. The materials and technique allow her to go farther than ever with her imaginative creations. “It’s much lighter than clay,” she explained, “and so I can experiment more working with balance, and I can build higher and wider and do a lot more than you can just do with clay.”
Three sculptures in the feature exhibit show just how far the technique can go, capturing the whimsical and humorous bent of Mann’s imagination. One has a cat juggling mice; another, a blue footed booby sitting on the head of a young woman, dangling a nest full of eggs from its bill; and the ultimate balancing act has two elephants stacked on each other, atop a beach ball, with a flock of puffins fluttering about them.
You can’t help but smile as you get drawn into the detail of the pieces. It’s a reaction Mann is working hard to achieve and perfect. “I just hope to develop more my sculpture pieces,” she said, adding that she wants to explore more deeply both the media she’s using and her themes. “I really want to spend a couple of years just doing that.”
Sticking to one thing won’t be easy. Mann is prolific and eclectic. She experiments with materials, technique and styles, working just about every day, taking her cues from life experiences and her own environment.
The featured floral arrangements at Rainforest Arts are bright and cheerful, perhaps inspired by the extensive gardens in her back yard, where her studio is located. But she plays down that motif in her art, although she admits it’s hard to resist painting flowers. “I never really thought of myself as a flower artist, because I’ve seen other people’s flowers and they’re just amazing,” she said. “I mean, they’re so darn colourful, aren’t they?”
It was her attachment to her garden that led to two of the featured works. Just over a decade ago, she and other residents of a mobile home park were given notice they would have to leave. Mann did a panoramic panel of the lush, back yard of her former home, and more recently did a similar painting of the yard she has created on a hillside behind her mobile home off Jim Cram Drive in Ladysmith – a setting dotted with flowers and populated with works of art.
“We had a beautiful garden,” Mann said of her former home. “I just thought, ‘I have to capture this somehow, because it’s all going to be gone.’” It lives on for you to see at Rainforest Arts, 9781 Willow Street in Chemainus, as does the rendition of her current home.