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Review: The Initial Show 

The Visual Arts Nova Scotia Mentorship Program show presents multiple disciplines and styles.

click to enlarge “Exploded Curio Cabinet” by Kate Grey and Andrea Dorfman - VISUAL ARTS NOVA SCOTIA
  • “Exploded Curio Cabinet” by Kate Grey and Andrea Dorfman
  • Visual Arts Nova Scotia

The Initial Show
Craig Gallery, Alderney Landing
2 Ochterloney Street
To July 23 Artists' talk Saturday, July 15, 2pm

A singular Nova Scotian artistic voice is impossible to pin down—and The Initial Show, which runs until July 23 at the Craig Gallery in Dartmouth, stands as modest proof of the province's artistic multeity. The show concludes this year's Visual Arts Nova Scotia Mentorship Program, collecting works from a bevy of disciplines and styles into a snapshot of the province's up-and-coming talent.

For this year's program, four emerging artists—Kate Grey, Ryan Josey, Ben Mosher and Alexis Vessey—were paired with four established artists—Andrea Dorfman, Bryan Maycock, Craig Leonard and Sarah Maloney, respectively—to share skills and work collaboratively. In some cases, the artistic pairings led to a synergy between mentor and mentee: It's easy to imagine Vessey and Maloney's botanical sculptures conversing with one another from across the gallery. Other pairings allowed for welcome displays of individual style—Josey's "Duo," sketches of transit vehicles from Halifax and Aleppo, is evocative and technically remarkable.

Most striking is "Exploded Curio Cabinet," a collaborative work by Grey and Dorfman that collects an assortment of found objects in ceramic (fiddleheads, bowls, books) on an array of hanging shelves. Its kitsch holds a kind of nostalgia but also feels decidedly contemporary—significant for a show documenting the growth of four young talents alongside their established peers.

The conditions from which The Initial Show grew beg a number of questions: What is the distinction between mentorship and collaboration? And what does such a conceit suggest that about how we value the work of established artists in contrast with their newer peers?

Rather than impose a false hierarchy on the artists and their mentors, however, the show instead allows for a fascinating glimpse into the development of vital artistic voices.

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