One of Jonathon David Turner’s wood-burning projects features cubes within cubes — the sort of art piece you have to readjust your eyes to understand. It sits in a glass pedestal on the downtown library’s first-floor atrium.
“It’s fun to mess with people’s heads,” quipped Turner, 31. “I would call it isometric optical illusions because you can look at the image at six different angles and see something different in each different angle. I try to actually accommodate each angle.”
He likes the mind-boggling works of M.C. Escher. If you want to talk to Turner about his artwork, he’s likely hanging out on the fourth floor of the library. He’s an artist in residence of sorts, spending days in the library and nights on Vancouver’s streets. He said he’s been homeless since 2009.
Homeless not Hopeless is the name of a new art show at the Vancouver Community Library featuring artwork done by local people who’ve experienced homelessness.
“The idea was to find a way to highlight the homeless population in a positive way,” said Ruth Shafer, program services manager at the library. “A lot of them really are being productive, creative, trying to contribute, and this is one way they can contribute.”
If You Go
What: Homeless not Hopeless art reception.
When: 3:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday.
Where: The atrium near Thatcher’s Coffee at Vancouver Community Library, 901 C St., Vancouver.
It’s the first time the library has attempted an art show like this, and it’s also the first exhibit in what’s called The Gray Space; people can find artwork throughout the first, fourth and fifth floors. It differs from the more formal gallery that people flock to for First Friday art receptions in the Columbia Room by the library entrance. Library patrons were clamoring for more art, and The Gray Space is what resulted. A series of hanging systems were installed along the concrete walls for displaying two-dimensional works.
“If you have a creative sort of side to you, no matter what your circumstance are you do it, or it comes out or you find a way to express it,” said David Gambale, senior library assistant.
Some of the pieces were hard to display, he said, such as a painting done on a T-shirt. Aurora Gallery donated matting services so the two-dimensional pieces could be hung on the walls.
The art show was the idea of Mandi Vee, who used to be homeless and spent much of her time creating art in the library. Although it took months to come to fruition, she’s looking forward to speaking at the show’s art reception Tuesday. She has several pieces in the library: stone jewelry, a crocheted baby blanket, drawings and an alabaster sculpture.
“That’s one of my favorite pieces. It’s still not done,” she said.
Some of her works speak more directly to homelessness, such as a beaded bracelet that says ‘being homeless should not be a crime’ and a poster with a series of questions for people to consider before judging someone who appears to be homeless. Does this person have a family they can rely on for help? Does this person have access to good, nutritional food? Is this person disabled?
“I definitely wanted people to know what it’s like when you’re out on the streets,” Vee, 46, said.
She said much of the artwork was made by people involved in the outreach organization Outsiders Inn, such as herself. She’s gotten assistance through Outsiders Inn and is renting a room in Vancouver — no longer living in a broken-down van. Now that she’s indoors, she doesn’t come to the library as often. Still, she’d like to someday volunteer at the library, sell her wares at festivals and exhibit her work in another gallery.
Homeless not Hopeless will be on display through mid-May.