Susan Barker’s reflective Tea Kettle Selfie #2, can be seen in the Out of the Kitchen exhibit at the Kiwanis Gallery in Red Deer. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer artists celebrate the beauty of food creation — and consumption

Issy Covey and Susan Barker’s joint exhibit, Out of the Kitchen, runs to Dec. 22

Feeding the soul, as well as the body, has inspired the Out of the Kitchen exhibit at Red Deer’s downtown public library.

Local artists Susan Barker and Issy Covey have jointly created paintings and pottery that uncover the beauty of ordinary kitchen items — from the bowls we eat from, to the silvered reflections on teapots, and the juxtaposition of colourful ingredients.

Their artistic display at the Kiwanis Gallery, run by the Red Deer Arts Council, is a testament to the artists’ 30-year friendship and habit of turning their kitchens into studio spaces for their art.

As well as sharing cups of coffee and conversation in their cooking areas, Covey and Barker say they have brainstormed by their kitchen sinks.

One of these sessions sparked the idea for an exhibit inspired by food and artwork: “The visual effect and the consumption.”

Barker, who’s created watercolour paintings of sugar bowls and rhubarb, wine bottles and coffee cups, likes to paint in the heart of her home.

“I love the fact I can be preparing food or doing any other chores around my house and stop by and paint a few strokes.”

As a gardener who grows her own food, Barker is familiar with making preserves — and has delicately rendered the requisite bag of sugar and mason jars in her artwork.

The award-winning artist, whose works have appeared in many juried shows, said “One of the most beautiful things is a cutting board of fresh tomatoes” — or jars of fruit preserves lined up on the counter, “with light shining through them, like stained glass windows.”

Covey, who has an art degree from Gray’s School of Art in her native Scotland, has been in Canada for 40 years, working as a graphic artist before discovering her ceramics skills at the Red Deer Pottery Club (she joined at Barker’s urging.)

Covey enjoys hand building pieces in a “twisted way,” explaining that she always starts with an idea in mind and it invariably “falls apart” as the forces of gravity, heat and unpredictable glazing take their effect.

“A twist here, a fold there and an unfinished edge — and the clay has taken its own shape. The original idea is long gone and the mind has been overruled” by her hands, she said — or perhaps a subliminal muse.

Covey admitted the idea of making functional pieces for this show was initially daunting, since her works leans towards the free-style and abstract. But she buckled down and built bowls and cooking utensils that share an original, hand-wrought aesthetic as well as a usable purpose.

Her drawing and painting skills were melded into Covey’s ceramic process in the creation of an unfettered salad bowl that’s boldly imprinted with a red tomato and lettuce design.

The two artists hope to help viewers appreciate the beauty in their own kitchens: “It seemed right to celebrate it,” said Barker.

The show continues to Dec. 22. There’s a First Friday opening reception with the artists on Dec. 6 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

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Tools of the Trade, a watercolour painting by Susan Barker, from the Out of the Kitchen exhibit at the Kiwanis Gallery. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Is it a bowl or is it art? Issy Covey’s ceramic ware is part of the Out of the Kitchen exhibit at the Kiwanis Gallery. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN).

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