A young Ahousaht woman has joined the world of fine art after several of her works were featured in an art exhibit in the Victoria gallery Fifty Fifty Arts Collective.
Courtenay Louie, 20, showed nine framed photographs featuring First Nations subjects that fit with the exhibit theme ‘Healing and Transforming in a Contemporary World –Aboriginal Underground Art Crawl.’
Three Victoria art galleries took part in the event, including Ministry of Casual Living and Open Space who each held an open house Nov. 3.
Organizers said the event will feature local contemporary, emerging Aboriginal artists representing a diversity of cultural groups, ideas and mediums; ‘these artists are actively engaging and renovating the past with their own visual language. Exploring ideas about healing and transformation, they embrace the fluidity, flux and hybridization of contemporary life.’
On the evening of the show, Rebecca Atleo invited family and friends for dinner at her home in honor of her daughter. Courtenay said 80 people filled their home before joining the family at the Fifty Fifty Gallery on Douglas Street.
The exhibit had been on display for about a week and wrapped up with an ‘art crawl’ as the grand finale. Art buffs went from gallery to gallery to view the works of dozens of artists working in various mediums.
Courtenay has been interested in photography starting at a very young age.
“When I was a baby my mother took my first fingernail clippings and taped them to a camera,” Louie said, alluding to an old Nuu-chah-nulth tradition that some still practice today. Many parents, for example, still collect the placenta from the hospital so that they may bury it with items with the hope their new babies will do well at in the future.
At age 13 Courtenay received a 35mm camera for Christmas and began developing her art form.
Her break came when a secretary approached Rebecca at work with flyers containing information about the art show. When she saw Courtenay’s work in Rebecca’s office she immediately called and asked Courtenay if she would be interested in showing her work.
“Marnie came by that evening and asked me to pick my favorite photographs,” Louie remembered. Of the 20 photographs she selected, nine were chosen because they fit the theme.
Louie said it feels good to have her work acknowledged in such a grand way. Rebecca said she is so very proud of her daughter. So too were the dozens of relatives that came to the Open House, including grandmother Flossie Atleo and Greg Louie, Courtenay’s father.
Courtenay plans to apply to Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design to further develop her skills, but first must complete some college prep courses and build her portfolio.
She plans to give away the photographs that were exhibited in keeping with another important cultural practice. “It’s like when you catch your first fish, you’re supposed to give it away,” she explained.
By Denise Titian