This year, Visual Arts Mississauga celebrates its 40th anniversary. VAM marked this milestone with the celebration of their annual Members’ Show and Sale. Last Thursday, VAM opened its doors for the opening reception of the exhibition.

Eldiana Begovic, VAM’s events, exhibitions, and volunteer coordinator, introduced herself and offered explanations of the event and the art on display. Begovic, an alumna of UTM, informed me that 2017 has been a year of growth for VAM so far. She explained that the past few years have generally seen an absence of young artists. Luckily, this year’s Members’ Show and Sale showcased the work of several young artists.

As Begovic explained, VAM is a mandated not-for-profit organization, committed to providing a cost-efficient space for learning and exhibitions. VAM offers a sanctuary for artists of all ages and skill levels. According to Begovic, it’s a space where “beginners can paint next to experienced artists.”

The Members’ Show and Sale featured mixed media pieces, oil paintings, and acrylic paintings. Judy Daley, the curator of Helson Gallery in Halton Hills, announced the winning pieces of this year’s contest. First place was awarded to Johanna Dako’s “Glacier,” second was Grazyna Adamska-Jarecka’s “Red Migration,” and third place went to Linh Thai’s “Summer 1998 in the Mekong River.”

I had the pleasure of meeting Thai, who offered me a glimpse of the process behind her work. “Summer 1998 in the Mekong River,” a piece consisting of paper cutouts and charcoal, was praised by Daley for demonstrating a strong example of spontaneity in a traditionally labor-intensive medium. Inspired by a family picture from her native Vietnam, the piece depicts a serene snapshot of the Vietnamese countryside.

“A lot of my artwork is based on family,” Thai said. “It’s a bit nostalgic.” When I asked her about the inspiration behind her winning piece, she said “I’m afraid that I’ll forget.” Due to modernization, scenes like the ones in Thai’s art are becoming increasingly rare.

I also spoke with Alexandra Romano, who featured her acrylic painting, “Iridescent Garden II,” in the exhibition. “Iridescent Garden” is an abstract piece that pulls viewers into its colourful and hypnotic rhythm. Romano hopes her audience will derive their own meanings from her piece. She notes, “I want people to have their original opinions. There’s no other way.” Romano discussed her inspiration and the difficulties young artists face. Beyond the struggle of obtaining proper exposure, pricing can often be a problem for young artists.

In addition to youth artists, the Members’ Show and Sale featured work by Canadian filmmaker Peter Rowe, known for the TV series Angry Planet. His mixed media piece on display is titled “Ink Therapy.” Rowe’s involvement with VAM came about rather coincidentally. The Riverwood Conservancy was once a privately-owned horse ranch, where Rowe groomed horses as a teenager. About four years ago, Rowe decided to investigate the horse ranch. But instead of finding the ranch, Rowe was pleasantly surprised to discover VAM.

With a recent victory over cancer, Rowe’s talent and energy are as vibrant as ever. These emotions manifest themselves in his piece. “Ink Therapy” evokes something new, yet controllable. The combined order and chaos within the brilliantly coloured piece inspires viewers to explore its chaos.

Among the other pieces on display, I found Clive Kay’s “Ballet in Pink” particularly striking. The painting depicts a lone ballerina in a sweeping pose. She stands poised on her toes with her arms extended gracefully in the air. The neutral background emphasizes the ballerina’s pink tutu. Kay’s heavy brushstrokes make the dancer appear as if she’s melting—a testament to the fragility of beauty.

The annual Members’ Show and Sale will be on display in the VAM gallery and studios until April 1.

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