British Columbia

Back-alley art comes in from the streets

The Stick art show is aimed at legitimizing what's often seen as an underground art form, organizers say.

Guerrilla poster artists collaborate in new Vancouver gallery show

Artist Airesse MacPhee is taking part in an exhibit bringing street art indoors at the Red Gate Art Society, 1965 Main Street, in Vancouver. (Rachel Sanders/CBC)

Street art is coming in from the cold at a new gallery exhibition in Vancouver this week.

The Stick exhibit — named for the thin layer of homemade, flour-based glue artists use to secure their art to lamp posts and abandoned buildings — aims to legitimize what's often seen as an underground art form, organizers say.

"We're hoping we get a really positive response and change a lot of people's minds about what their unconscious definition of street art is," said Airesse MacPhee, one of the four artists collaborating to put on the show.

It's a form of art also known as "wheat pasting" and, legally speaking, it falls within a bit of a grey area.

M.W. Bowen, left, and Airesse MacPhee, right, are two of the four artists working on The Stick project. (Rachel Sanders/CBC)

'Courteous vandalism'

"I refer to it as 'courteous vandalism,' " she told CBC's The Early Edition.  And in Vancouver, poster art gets washed away pretty quickly anyway.

"It can be removed easily, so I can't be fined under graffiti or vandalism laws. The most I can get stuck with is potentially an illegal postering bylaw infraction."

Airesse MacPhee's art is text-based: she prints off interesting words and their definitions to stick around the city, hoping to prompt new ideas and conversation. (Rachel Sanders/CBC)

They also want to bring a little colour to the daily lives of passersby. "I just want to add a little something to people's day," said MacPhee.

Changing views of street art

MacPhee and her three collaborators, who work under the names of M.W. Bowen, WkndSnack and Sasquatch Army, found each other via Instagram and decided to team up to bring their work into a gallery space.

Wheat pasting gives them a chance to put their work out into the world without having to go through a gallery gatekeeper.

The art — including the popular Pizza Cat — is on exhibit at the Red Gate Arts Society until March 28. (Rachel Sanders/CBC)

"I feel like there's certain people and in certain circles — especially in the art world because it can be quite elitist — where we're seen as kind of a lower level of art," she said.

"We're just as creative and put just as much effort into our street art as anyone else operating in the city who's showing their stuff in galleries."

The artists stick their work around the city with a thin layer of homemade glue. (Rachel Sanders/CBC)

The group is also hoping to build a sense of community with weekend wheat pasting lessons and sticker-making workshops for kids during the course of the show.

The exhibition, up until March 28 at the Red Gate Arts Society on Main Street, features brightly coloured images of pie and pizza, quirky pop culture characters and linocut sasquatches, all wheat pasted onto found objects and plastered together into vivid collages.

MacPhee's own art is text-based. She chooses interesting words, prints them off alongside their dictionary definitions and sticks them up around the city. When bystanders catch her in the act, it can lead to lengthy chats.

"They're telling me a story that that word triggered for them and they're telling me about a memory and we have a great interaction," she said. 

With files from The Early Edition


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