West Coast artist Sarah Platenius engages Georgina and Mark Valk during the opening of her solo art show dubbed ‘Exalted Heart’ at Experiential on April 12. The show will be on display until May 3. (Photo - Joanna Streetly)

Sarah Platenius hosts solo show at Tofino’s Experiential Art Gallery

“I like to collaborate with not just the art, but with the spirit of the artists.”

ERIN LINN MCMULLAN Special to the Westerly

“There’s a trick to flying, you must fling yourself at the ground – and miss.” – Douglas Adams.

This quote from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, embedded like a secret message at the heart of ‘Tenderness,’ a mixed media work by Sarah Plantenius, seems to address the evolutionary nature of art itself.

Yearning for flight, expressed both by the tree’s upward stretch and the murder of black crows ascending as one. Only a chosen few reaching the uppermost branches.

Describing each piece as an adventure, Platenius emphasizes, “Art, like life, is a practice of learning to show up more fully.”

“Whatever you’re doing in life, whether it’s art or anything else, keep moving forward, tuning and fine-tuning your vision and what you love.”

That love of art shines through in her first solo show, ‘Exalted Heart,’ bringing her solitary practice into a communal space. The latest leap in a journey that, earlier this year, saw her attending environmental writers workshop ‘Orion in the Wilderness’ at American Museum of Natural History’s research station in southeastern Arizona.

What Platenius’ visual and literary art shares is that underlying tension exemplified by Adam’s quote: our human desire for things to be different than they are. And yet, what the tangible wilderness reflects back to the wilderness of our hearts is instead an acceptance.

“In wilderness is everything: both the answers and the understanding of how things are sometimes. When we pay attention to this in nature, it helps us see this truth more clearly in ourselves.”

Inspired by her coastal environment and the interconnectedness of life, Platenius approaches her artistic practice as she does her walks in nature, with an air of discovery, patience and a willingness to be surprised.

Often, she will return ready to apply a new colour or carrying moss tendrils to layer into a collage. In ‘Home’, a gust of motion integrates old copper pennies with laundry on the line.

Environmental tensions seem implicit in ‘How the Light Gets In’ with four jigsaw panels mounted as if being pulled apart – fracturing ocean currents as whales migrate towards its epicentre. Absent from one panel altogether.

Platenius describes framer Joel Gray’s work as a collaboration.

“I like to collaborate with not just the art, but with the spirit of the artists,” says Gray, who has known the artist and her family for a dozen years.

A Tofino resident for 20 years, Platenius grew up spending summers in Clayoquot Sound with her father, Jim Hudnall. Hudnall is the whale scientist-cinematographer best known for The Great Whales (1978).

Andrea Fergusson describes the gallery itself evolving intuitively like an art project, with Platenius’ show opening a fabulous evening with the artist and well-attended by the community.

“Our future shows will always include Friday evening openings now where possible, as well as ‘Artist on Site Saturday’ to follow, where visitors can see a glimpse into the feature Artist’s creative process.”

‘Exalted Heart’ runs until May 3 at Experiential Art Gallery. Open daily 11 a.m.-4 p.m.

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