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This new show in New West features art by ‘outlaws’

Those featured in Outlaw Art Show are not primarily visual artists — they are, instead, musicians who belong to New Westminster's underground rockabilly and punk music scene.

About 15 artists will be presenting their works at the Outlaw Art Show at the Gallery in Queen’s Park starting Aug. 31. ‘Outlaw art’ because all (except three) of the participating artists are not really artists but musicians.

“They just draw on the side,” said Gordon Smithers, who is an artist and musician himself, and is the curator of the show.   

Smithers identifies himself primarily as a musician, but has been drawing for 12 years now. He mostly does pen and ink art, though, since last year, has also taken up woodcut printing after watching a few YouTube videos. Some of his newly-done woodcut prints will be part of the Outlaw Art Show.

About music and art, Smithers, who runs the Heritage Uke Club, said, “it's all the same thing.” Though one is visual and one is audio, there's a good chance if you're good at one you'll have a natural aptitude for the other, he added.

“It's shapes, patterns and lines. Once I started trying to curate this show, I kind of realized how many musicians paint, or draw on the side — even the professional musicians.” 

Smithers' favourite musician and visual artist is punk rock musician and print-maker Billy Childish.

“Frank Zappa (the rock and roll legend) was a really good illustrator too. Charlie Watts (the drummer for The Rolling Stones) would draw every hotel room that he stayed in,” he said. 

Outlaw Art Show turns two

The Outlaw Art show is in its second year; the first year saw a surprisingly good reception, said Richard Chapman who runs Northern Electric Records, and is a co-presenter and a participating artist in the show.

In his profession of running a record label, he has met a large number of musicians who are also visual artists. And that is part of the reason why he and Smithers decided to organize a show featuring works of talented musicians — “to express that people are multidimensional.” 

The germ of the idea, however, was sown when Smithers was selected as a resident artist at the Gallery at Queen's Park last year.

“It was right after COVID, there wasn't really anything happening as far as bands playing or people getting together,” Smithers recalled.

He decided to change that by putting up a music show every Monday at the park for six weeks, and ending it with the first edition of Outlaw Art Show at the gallery.

For the show, Smithers curated works (mostly paintings, besides some three-dimensional and multimedia work too) of other musicians — all of whom were his friends, and whose art he liked.

Most of the artists who were part of the original show are featured this year as well. 

There are some fairly well-known artists too, said Smithers — Like David  Ostrem who has shown his works at the Vancouver Art Gallery, and Kelly Haigh, who is a painter and country singer. 

Besides blurring the boundaries between art and music, the show promises to bring in some cheer — especially after the “weird few years” we have had, said Chapman. 

“There's fun, there's colour, there's joy, beauty, humour…” And a dash of music too. 

The show is on at the Gallery at Queen’s Park from August 31 to September 5. Fore more details, check out this Instagram post by the Gallery.

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