Stuff: We Become Our Things and Retrospective
Artist Nicola Wheston’s Exhibit Opens at SJIMA
San Juan Islands Museum of Art, Friday Harbor, San Juan Island, WA
September 15 – November 26, 2018

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Changing the way we look at our “stuff and the consumerist pathology of our time”

Salt Spring Island, BC – July 4, 2018 – Recording the stuff we have, what surrounds us, and the things we see in our everyday lives, artist Nicola Wheston’s new work shifts our focus onto the tidal wave of waste created in a consumerist society. Wheston’s narrative work, a life-size series of paintings, Stuff: We Become Our Things and Retrospective, opens at the San Juan Islands Art Museum (SJIMA) from September 15 to November 26.

Her paintings take us through the cycle of life of our stuff, where we buy it, and where it ends up – showcasing the consumerist pathology of our times with eight paintings that take us from the big box store, straight to the garbage dump and landfill. Depth, detail and colour come together in her paintings in a stirring, surreal way. As she notes in her artist statement, “Objects have been painted throughout history, they are the record we have of the objects and lives of people in the past.”

Cutting close to the bone, Wheston’s work expresses her desire to illustrate the rapid rise of the norm of consumerism in the era of plastics and how the system is showing its cracks. “We now live in a society where we are drowning in “stuff,” says Wheston. “Plastic fills every inch of our homes and we are building bigger and bigger homes to accommodate all this stuff.” She adds, “In the end, “stuff” ultimately entraps us.”

Wheston’s inspiration for her series began when she had the misfortune of clearing the estates of deceased relatives. One, a hoarder, proved especially daunting. These experiences galvanized Wheston’s awareness of the real impact of our consumer society and how unsustainable it is. Her new series, five years in the making, highlights this effect and helps transform our relationship to ourselves, as well as to our stuff.

Based on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada’s top artist colony, Wheston is a past winner of the “People’s Choice Award” (SSNAP) 2015. Her work provokes and wakes us up to what we use and see in everyday life on a level that is disturbing and yet capturing. Wheston paintings are monumental in size, consisting of four panels, five feet by sixteen feet canvases. She is noted for her use of strong colours. She adds, “Living in Mexico influenced me to paint with more alive and vibrant colours.” This is her first exhibit at the SJIMA.

By Deirdre Rowland