Nanaimo artist Yvonne Vander Kooi presents her latest exhibition, Passage, at the Ou Gallery in Duncan. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Nanaimo artist Yvonne Vander Kooi presents her latest exhibition, Passage, at the Ou Gallery in Duncan. (Josef Jacobson/The News Bulletin)

Artist draws from old family photos in large painting exhibition in Duncan

Yvonne Vander Kooi presents ‘Passage’ at Duncan’s Ou Gallery

Nanaimo artist Yvonne Vander Kooi said there are times in one’s life when one may want to reflect upon the people and places who contributed to who they are.

That’s what Vander Kooi has been going through over the past two years as she’s been poring over family photos dating from the ’30s to the ’70s, covering her parents’ youths, the Second World War, their immigration to Canada and Vander Kooi’s own childhood.

Vander Kooi said the practice is about determining identity, but as an artist she looks at those photographs and sees possibilities.

“I think about who’s in the photos, who’s not, why? What are they doing? What are they thinking?” she said. “It’s just this contemplative look at the people who are mine, right? My clan, I guess, and what did they do and how does that impact me today and this idea of multigenerational transfers that occur that are sort of subtle or not very obvious necessarily, but they’re there and how do these things play out?”

Vander Kooi has taken some of the photographs she’s found particularly compelling and extrapolated from them to create a series of large paintings. She calls the exhibition, which opened at the Ou Gallery in Duncan on Oct. 26, Passage.

The exhibition also examines ideas around the reliability of photographs as ironclad historical documents, as well as the malleability of memory. In some cases Vander Kooi did additional research to better understand the photographs’ context.

“I’ve heard terms like ‘memory is imagination,’ which I really like because I feel like that’s what I’ve done here is I’ve imagined,” she said. “There’s been a lot of imagining so these aren’t necessarily accurate records, they’re just more imaginings around the idea of memory and the past.”

At the exhibition opening Vander Kooi’s sisters flew in from Toronto and Edmonton and her brother came from Port Alberni. She said they’re supportive of the work, with one sister telling her she can’t sell the pieces because “these paintings really belong to us.”

“That was a kind of beautiful compliment because I guess that is what I’m doing is exploring who we are as a family and it’s important to me,” Vander Kooi said. “And so the fact that her response was like, ‘This is important, I want to stay connected to this work in some way,’ was really great.”

Vander Kooi hoped to have her mother, who lives in Ontario, present at the opening via video call. She also said she’d like to exhibit the show in her home province because of its connection to place. But while it is a personal exhibit, Vander Kooi said it touches on relatable concepts.

“I think it’s bigger than just my family,” she said. “I think there are opportunities for people to connect with this work around their own stories and their own family histories.”

Vander Kooi will be at the gallery during the Cowichan Artisans Studio Tour on Nov. 2 and 3 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

“He’ll be bowling for dollars — $30,000 to be exact. Matt Hancock, 15-years-old of Lake Cowichan won in the Coca-Cola B.C. championship finals and will now bowl in the international championship with a chance to win a $30,000 scholarship. Hancock will go to the international competition in Columbus July 10. He is coached by Karen Smith of Cowichan Lake and plays on the T.G.S. bowling team.” (Lake News/May 8, 1996)
Flashback: Taxes, school district amalgamation, logging licences and student news

A look back through the pages of Lake Cowichan’s history

Tim Schewe
Drivesmart column: Give me a brake!

It was clear that none of these drivers had done a pre-trip inspection

Robert’s column
Robert Barron column: Cameras on school buses a good idea

“I’ve seen kids have to run from cars”

Trying out a corn variety called “Midnight Snack, grown near Cache Creek, as well as my saved Bantam/Sunnyvee Cross (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Early sowing gets a jump on corn season

‘I’m planting three batches of corn, two weeks apart for a steady supply’

(The Canadian Press)
Trudeau won’t say whether Canada supports patent waiver for COVID-19 vaccines

‘Canada is at the table to help find a solution’

RCMP are looking for information on an alleged shooting attempt near an elementary school in Smithers March 10. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News/Stock)
UPDATE: Man killed in brazen daylight shooting at Vancouver airport

Details about the police incident are still unknown

Pieces of nephrite jade are shown at a mine site in northwestern B.C. in July 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO-Tahltan Central Government MANDATORY CREDIT
Indigenous nation opposes jade mining in northwestern B.C.

B.C.’s Mines Act requires operators to prepare a plan to protect cultural heritage resources

The body of Brenda Ware, 35, was found along Highway 93 in Kootenay National Park on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (RCMP handout)
RCMP ask for tips after woman’s body found in Kootenay National Park

Brenda Ware was found along Highway 93 in the park, 54 kilometres north of the town of Radium

People pass the red hearts on the COVID-19 Memorial Wall mourning those who have died, opposite the Houses of Parliament on the Embankment in London, Wednesday, April 7, 2021. On May 3, the British government announced that only one person had died of COVID-19 in the previous 24 hours. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Kirsty Wigglesworth
For a view of a COVID-19 future, Canadians should look across the pond

Britain, like Canada, is one of the only countries in the world to delay second doses for several months

Edmonton Oilers’ Connor McDavid (97) celebrates his 100th point this season with Leon Draisaitl (29) against the Vancouver Canucks during second period NHL action in Edmonton on Saturday, May 8, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jason Franson
Edmonton superstar McDavid hits 100-point mark as Oilers edge Canucks 4-3

NHL scoring leader needs just 53 games to reach century mark

Nuns of Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, carry some of her relics during a vigil of prayer in preparation for the canonization of Mother Teresa in the St. John in Latheran Basilica at the Vatican, Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. In which city did she do much of her charitable work? (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia)
QUIZ: How much do you know about these motherhood issues?

In honour of Mother’s Day, take this 10-question quiz

Most Read