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The exhibition also examines ideas around the reliability of photographs as ironclad historical documents, as well as the malleability of memory.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

Moira Mercer spent her summer riding her e-bike around Cowichan Lake and beyond, collecting any empties she found along the way. (Submitted)
Lake Cowichan 2020 in review — conclusion

What were your top stories from 2020?

Staff meetings can be difficult when everyone has his own agenda. (Mary Lowther photo)
Mary Lowther column: Garden additions at request of staff

I’ll sow the catnip in flats on the seed table inside

Sarah Simpson
Sarah Simpson column: Snowballs fights and dead spiders

Even if it doesn’t end up how we hope, it’s the trying that matters most.

Cowichan Tribes members line up at a drive-up clinic on Wednesday, Jan. 13 to receive the first doses of the COVID-19 vaccine in the region. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
BCAFN condems racism against Cowichan Tribes after COVID-19 outbreak

“Any one of us could do everything right and still catch the virus”: Regional Chief Terry Teegee.

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Sooke’s Jim Bottomley is among a handful of futurists based in Canada. “I want to help people understand the future of humanity.” (Aaron Guillen - Sooke News Mirror)
No crystal ball: B.C. man reveals how he makes his living predicting the future

63-year-old has worked analytical magic for politicians, car brands, and cosmetic companies

Terry David Mulligan. (Submitted photo)
Podcast: Interview with longtime actor/broadcaster and B.C. resident Terry David Mulligan

Podcast: Talk includes TDM’s RCMP career, radio, TV, wine, Janis Joplin and much more

A still from surveillance footage showing a confrontation in the entranceway at Dolly’s Gym on Nicol Street on Friday morning. (Image submitted)
Troublemaker in Nanaimo fails at fraud attempt, slams door on business owner’s foot

VIDEO: Suspect causes pain and damage in incident downtown Friday morning

Most Read