A group of eight woman, two of which hold canvases and a third stands beside her painting. ANother woman is pouring tea

The Thursday Afternoon Art Collective brings ‘Between Heaven and Earth’ to the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery

The Thursday Afternoon Art Collective will be coming to the walls of the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery at 6 PM on Friday June 9. The talents of Lisa Gibbons, Madhurima Braaten, Dayna Davis, Caz Ratcliffe, Denise Drury, Jane Newman, Karen McDiarmid and Darshan Stevens are on display in ‘Between Heaven and Earth.’ The exhibition closes on Sunday June 18. 

“I’ve been doing art classes in the studio for the last maybe 10 years,  mixed media art classes for different members of the community, children and adults,” explained Lisa Gibbons.

“A core group of really dedicated people just kept coming and emerged as this vital core group that we have right now. We were meeting just before the pandemic, but it was still in the form of a class. Then we had to take this break and, for me personally, I also had to take a break for health reasons. The studio was dormant. We were all  in our own creative spaces at home.  Gratefully, I was able to come back to the studio late last fall,  maybe November, and this core group of women really wanted to continue coming back as well.  We just naturally morphed into a collaborative group because everybody’s got so much experience now. So we left behind that old model that we were doing before, it’s just really beautiful how it’s blossomed, and we’re doing things together.” 

Credits (photo) courtesy Darshan Photography; (music) This broadcast opened and closed with a short cliff from Jeff Buckley’s version of ‘Hallelujah.

Darshan Stevens added, “I’ve always done different kinds of art, like writing and music, playing and photography. This is my career for quite a long time.  I never really had an idea that I was going to become a visual artist, but 10 years ago when I moved here, I started coming to Lisa’s classes.  I just got really into it and now I really feel like doing mixed media art is a really big part of my practice, creatively.  I’m really grateful that I got to learn this through Lisa because Lisa’s also a really close friend.

“Now I feel like this group of women that’s come together in the Thursday afternoon collective, that we have really started forming pretty tight bonds.” 

“There were already some really tight bonds with some of the people in the group. Three of them are already really good old friends. Jane and Denise and Karen all come from Banff and they’re all really close friends and have long histories as artists themselves.”  

“There’s something about the container of it being the same seven women every week that I find I like even better than when we started the group. So when we started the group, it was more drop in and different people came different weeks, and that was fine as well. But this, it feels very cohesive and it feels like a really great container for art making and collaboration and deeper friendship and connection now.” 

Jane Newman said, “When we wrote the proposal to the Schoolhouse Gallery, we had to articulate what between Heaven and Earth was going to be about. And also articulate what our purpose in working together is, and what it does for us as a group. We talked about it before it became a statement, but that statement will be  part of the ‘Between Heaven and Earth’ exhibit. Just who we are collectively,  what we believe, or what we come to know collectively. It will continue to change and morph.” 

So Cortes Currents asked Lisa Gibbons to read out the Thursday Afternoon Art Collective artist’s statement.

“Over the last several years, this group has gathered every Thursday afternoon in Lisa Gibbons’ studio to create artworks in mixed media.

During the pandemic, our lives and our art sessions were disrupted and we worked more independently. As the pandemic passed, we reunited as changed people and changed artists. We met less as a class and more as a creative art collective, sharing our new learned processes and finding inspiration from one another. Our work celebrates our lives, joys, successes, but gives a safe space to share our grief, loss, and failures, revealing the challenges and concerns of our ever-changing lives.

Since the rebirth of our group, we’ve called ourselves The Thursday Afternoon Art Collective. We see the studio as a vessel, a laboratory where we investigate our artistic paths. We all use the same collection of materials in the studio, which lends itself to a unifying cohesion while pursuing our independent artistic expression. Our mixed media styles allow the inner symbolic language to rise through us, as we share our visions and inspirations with each other, responding to the images and ideas that emerge.”

“Our guiding principle is to freely explore whatever reveals itself in the work. Letting intuitive ideas and images arise, discovering the personal language that reveals the unconscious layers of our psyches. We work without predetermined outcomes, allowing the work to reveal an inner landscape, the motifs of our lives, and our artistic voices.”

“The dualities of our world, hopes and sorrows, light and shadow, the material and ephemeral, led us to the idea of the communion Between Heaven and Earth, the theme of our show. Each artist brings a personal perspective to this guiding concept. The pandemic experience changed each of our lives, working through fear and loss, and helping us find new meaning, direction, and the joy of creativity. We were forced to ask new questions about life, individually and collectively, not just as artists but as members of the earth community. We seek that liminal space, where heaven and earth encounter each other, where the present moment meets the larger mystery.”

CC: What does your art mean to you? 

Lisa Gibbins: “It’s a huge subjective question.  Everybody I think would have a very different answer, but my art, for me, is a way of speaking with the part of myself that isn’t coming from my brain. In other words, it’s like a conversation that I get into with a deeper part of myself that wants to have a voice. So if you want to call it your soul or you’re a collective unconscious, your unconscious self emerging, it takes me out of the thinking mode, the worrying mode, the ‘what’s supposed to happen’ mode and really having a conversation with this part of yourself that wants to speak and wants to have a presence.” 

Jane Newman:  “I feel first and foremost that it’s a process for me. I can create things without really caring what the outcome is.” Ultimately there is a shift where I start to work towards an outcome because I want to finish something. That’s the beauty of working towards an exhibit. It’s very easy to start and it’s very easy to be in the middle of something and have this expression happening. For me it’s an expression of the angst that I might be feeling for my world and my people in my world, the animals and the insects and everything. There’s this turning point where I’ve got a process underway and it’s really rich and I’m out of that thinking mind. It’s very much about being in the body and  being in the flow, you lose everything else that’s around you except for maybe that ultimate connection. To finish work is another part of the process, but it’s a part of the process where I’m actually shifting to think about the product.”

“What is this actually going to finish as, and not necessarily because somebody else needs to love it or want to connect with it, but because I need to love it and want to connect with it, even though it may be in the state of completion.  I feel that there’s always a sense of ‘not me’ doing the work: another energy, another force working with me, maybe through me. I do believe it’s really important to let the muse know that you’re serious and that you’re showing up. You might be making some good art and you might be making some terrible art and everything in between.”

Darshan Stevens:  “I can relate a lot to both what Lisa said, and what Jane said.  I am younger than everyone else in the group and  it feels like a real privilege to be in the group. Being in the company with all of these women and women with such experience doing art is a huge inspiration and blessing for me.  I’m really learning something different about doing art, about getting older and long held connections between people.”

“I’m a new parent and my life is so incredibly full and overwhelming that coming here is such a refuge for me. I’m here from 3 to 6 each Thursday afternoon. Sometimes I come to the group and I am so tired from my life that I just spend an hour sitting on the couch watching everyone else work on their art.  I really don’t feel like making art. I’m exhausted. I’m so tired. Sometimes I just need to sit on the couch for an hour, but then I usually do some art making practice. Sometimes I don’t. A couple times I’ve come, just sat here, and then left.” 

“It’s really nice for me to just sit back and be more of a passive participant because in so many places in my life I have to be the leader and the organizer and the one teaching. So it’s really nice for me to feel like I can be more of  a student and I’m not trying to make myself bigger, make myself the most special or anything like that, which I have a history of doing in group settings. I’m learning a new way of being in a group through being with this collective.” 

“That doesn’t really answer the question about what my art means to me, but I really relate to what Jane said about that two-part process.  There’s the process of the art making, which is very rich for me and then for me, when it turns into ‘I need to finish this piece.’ I find that to be harder for me and not as fulfilling. I find that often I could actually work on one piece for my whole life and I really like adding things to a piece and then I really like tearing things away from it. I was joking the other day in class about how I really know I’m getting somewhere when this small canvas starts weighing 5 pounds, 10 pounds.”

“I suppose that says something about who I am, never having a final product and never really feeling like I have a fully formed identity or sense of who I am. Things are always shifting and I’m always archiving, taking things away from who I am.”

I work as a therapist, so this is what I do with my clients and this is mirrored in my art practice. I suppose in a way I could extrapolate it that way,  it’s like I’m adding things on to who I think I am and then I’m also taking so much away.  It’s the stripping away of the things that I think that I know about myself that give me maybe more wisdom, along with life experience being the greatest source  of wisdom.”

“I feel like my work is really a lot about family, about identity and about losses. Those things are never final and I feel like that’s why it’s so hard for me to finish any of my art. I’ve had quite a lot of losses in the last few years of my life, and those losses have changed me profoundly, hopefully humbled me a little bit, made me see the world really differently and have more compassion for other people.”

Lisa Gibbons: “I’d like to just say that we’ve had the Old Schoolhouse Art Gallery for how many years,  like 20?  It’s an opportunity and privilege in our sweet little Cortes Island to have a gallery space, and just to appreciate the people that volunteer and make it happen and take care of  that beautiful heritage building.”

“We have quite the lineup of group shows, and some solo shows, this whole season until September. Every two weeks there’ll be a new exhibition.  It’s just another remarkable thing about the Cortes Island community is that they have this incredible depth of artists on this island, and we’re just lucky enough to be the ones to start the season.”

“A few minutes ago I referred to turning the radio dial to the right frequency and getting out of your own way.  When I do that, something happens.  That’s when the conversation can happen. For me personally, It does get into that prayer realm, that more sacred realm where it doesn’t feel like me.”

“I believe in creating through positive intentions, manifesting through  my thoughts, creating my reality. I do that in art too. I sometimes put a prayer into the art, but I don’t often leave it there so that people can’t see it, but it’s in there energetically. I know it’s there. I know what it said and so that’s part of it. Or I might try to refer to it in the title that I choose.”  

“That’s sort of like deeper symbolic stuff, but it’s that act of making a sacrament is what we’re talking about. I think every creative person on the planet would be able to relate to that in some way: musicians, poets, writers, everybody.”

Darshan Stevens: I just really love that word sacrament. It just really feels like  the work that I’m making. The place that I’ve spent the most creative time is in my photography practice. I’ve been a photographer for 15 years.  Photography can be very personal because it’s very representational when you’re taking the photograph and it’s of something, but also the way that I’m taking it is so through my own lens, so to speak. It’s such a perfect combination of the objective and the subjective.” 

“I really take a lot of photographs of people and I love to be an archivist and a record keeper of things. That record keeping of the actual people and the actual things through my own way of looking at the world is this beautiful combination and sacrament.”

Lisa Gibbons: “Please don’t think that we’re heady artists trying to be self important, cause we’re not.” 

Darshan Steves: “Right now we were supposed to all have our artist statements to Jane who’s going to mount them for the show. We were supposed to give them to her over a week ago, and I don’t think any of us have sent them to her yet.” 

“In this interview, we’re talking so seriously but a big part of our group is also the silliness and the fun and we celebrate everyone’s birthday with like tea and wine and cake and I think we all look forward to those days just as much as the art making days, if not more, where we just sit around and spend the whole three hours eating and drinking.” 

Jane Newman: “And laughing.” 

Lisa Gibbons: “Rex (her husband) always likes those days because he gets a piece of cake.”

Group photos of the Thursday Afternoon Art Collective. (top and bottom photos) Back row (l to r) : Dayna Davis, Darshan Stevens, Karen McDiarmid and Jane Newman.  Middle row: Denise Drury, Caz Ratcliffe and Madhurima Braaten. Bottom: Lisa Gibbons and Sita the dogby Darshan Photography

Sign-up for Cortes Currents email-out:

To receive an emailed catalogue of articles on Cortes Currents, send a (blank) email to subscribe to your desired frequency: