Topsheet art show opens at Millennium Place 

Local ski and snowboard companies add artistic flare with unique topsheets. By Alyssa Noel

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Always ready to set a new trend, Prior is unveiling the potential designs for its new topsheets this year at an exhibit at Millennium Place.

Topsheets (the proper name for images on a ski or snowboard) offer a different kind of canvas for artists to showcase their work. Although the dimensions are limiting — the image has to be long and narrow to fit — the pieces become wearable art, a prospect many find appealing.

"Skiers and snowboarders, I think they're drawn to the aesthetic of the mountains," said Gus Cormack, sales and marketing manager at Prior, the Whistler-based ski and snowboard manufacturer. "When you're out skiing and snowboarding what you have on your feet is part of that aesthetic. They like to look down and see something nice. The artists too, for them it's a living piece of artwork."

To that end, Prior decided to hold a competition this year with help from the Whistler Arts Council to let the public decide which local artists should have their work emblazoned on the company's 2013/2014 line of skis and boards. They've whittled the submissions down to 22 images from a range of artists, including painters, photographers and graphic designers. The pieces will be on display at the Scotia Creek Gallery in Millennium Place where the public can vote for their favourites until Oct. 21, with the opening gala on Oct. 5.

"We were seeing a lot of artwork come across our desk, but just because of the timing or (limited) space for it in our line, it wouldn't see the light of day," Cormack said. "A lot of these artists don't have the space to exhibit in Whistler so, this year, instead of us going out and sourcing all the artwork, we thought we'd give (them) an opportunity to present something they really want to do and give them the space to exhibit."

Although the contest was only open to artists from the Sea to Sky corridor, the company still received submissions from across the globe. "We had some amazing pieces come from outside the valley. But what we do is so intimately tied with our location; we wanted to keep working with local artists. We've been blown away not only by the quality of the work, but the quantity that's submitted," Cormack added. "We wanted to get at least one new piece out of it. Given what I've seen, I think we could totally fill our line for the next year with what's on the show."

Prior isn't the only corridor company exploring topsheet art.

Sheldon Steckman of Garywayne skis is introducing an intriguing design this year that grew out of an artist's dream.

"The title of it is, 'Child Barfing Marble,'" he explained. "It's a line drawing of a toddler putting a finger in his throat and there's a marble pattern coming out. It's almost edgy, but it's not. Kids puke all the time."

True, but in real life the contents of their stomach don't look like this. As Steckman explained, Toronto-based artist JP King woke up one morning with the image in his mind and created the strangely beautiful piece featuring a rainbow swirl spilling from a sleeping child's lips. It would be perfect, he decided, for the topsheet of his unique skis. "It's the first time I've (commissioned an artist) and I think I want to keep doing it," he said. "I wanted to keep with my theme of standing out. My ski shapes are really weird and the name's a little different. I wanted everything to be a little off to the left."

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