Ben Sopow and Lynn Hunter are two artists showing work at the upcoming Renewal exhibition at Arbutus Books next month. (Photos courtesy Lynn Hunter/Ben Sopow)

Shop window art show explores COVID-19, the Black Death and the Renaissance

Rotating ‘Renewal’ exhibition coming to Nanaimo’s Arbutus Books display window in August

Christine Battye said she sees historical similarities between COVID-19 and the Black Death and the local artist and curator hopes that like in the 14th century, there may be a Renaissance to follow.

“They caught the plague, had to go into isolation, not being allowed to leave their houses,” she said. “And then after the plague happened in the early 1300s it led to significant social changes in society and it also led to the way art was changed.”

Battye’s latest exhibition, Renewal, focuses on themes of Renaissance art and people’s response to living through pandemic conditions. The show will be on display in the front window of Arbutus Books from Aug. 1 to 30.

“Our idea is to empty the window and place the art in there so the window becomes part of the exhibit and then you respect the social distancing and it also allows for a stream of audiences,” Battye said.

The exhibition will feature work by artists Lynn Hunter, Ben Sopow, Dyane Brown, Karen Birch and Nansey Sinclair on a rotating schedule. Battye said the artists “all have something they can offer to illustrate the curatorial concept.”

For her contribution, Hunter crated a watercolour painting and a pair of mosaic-like fabric portraits inspired by Renaissance-era Madonna and Child imagery.

“I’ve always been interested in doing [religious] icons,” she said. “And so I’ve tried watercolours and oils and I’m also a fabric artist so I decided I would try to paint with fabric.”

Hunter will also be displaying a fabric collage called Sanctuary, which depicts a couple sheltered by an umbrella. In an e-mail she explained “the background environment references a cathedral of sorts where the people find solace in times of trouble.”

Sopow said he was interested in the spiritual renewal that followed the Black Death and “new ways to find faith.” His work includes a mosaic that references Rastafarianism and piece inspired by pagan cave drawings. He also created a three-dimensional piece contained within a plexiglass box to allude to life in quarantine.

“What I’m really excited about is this idea of a storefront gallery,” Sopow said. “And I’m really excited by what Christine’s working out here and the potential for a different kind of art show … and I’m hopeful for Christine that this show may be a little bit of a prototype.”

WHAT’S ON … Renewal takes place in the display window at Arbutus Books, 87 Nicol St., from Aug. 1 to 30.

RELATED: VIU art student Christine Battye curates ‘Nudes’ show at Nanaimo Arts Council



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