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From mountaintop art to valley mural, Jessa Gilbert marks busy summer

Local artist to be featured in solo show at Sea to Sky Art House on Aug. 14
outdoor art Jessa Gilbert has found her niche creating art in B.C.'s beautiful places. photo by jessa gilbert/submitted

This summer, Jessa Gilbert has been introduced to the perks of heli-access plein air painting (or, as she calls outdoor painting, the "get out of town vibe.")

That means rather than hauling an easel on a hike, you zip up to a picturesque locale via chopper to work. The revelation came after a New York-based media company called Great Big Story tracked her down and asked if they could create a documentary on her.

"They produce documentaries showcasing talent around the world telling the story of what makes them tick," Gilbert says. "There's a huge range of people they've made pieces on."

Case-in-point: Gilbert was paired with a Vancouver helicopter pilot who flies around with his bulldog named Mister Bentley for part of the video—which is set to be 10 to 15 minutes long and released on the company's website in October. "The idea was to get the two of us together. They gave me the opportunity to bring my easel up a mountain that I wouldn't have been able to hike," Gilbert says.

But it won't end there. On Aug. 14, the film crew will be on scene to capture the unveiling of a mural that Squamish's Sea to Sky Art House commissioned her to create on the side of their building. "All these pieces came together," Gilbert says. "I'm excited to give back to the community and to see the work on such a large scale. I'm so, so stoked and grateful for the opportunity. I really love this place; B.C. helps me grow into the outdoorsy, artist person I am today. To be able to share the love I have for the community and the texture of the terrain, I can't think of a better gift."

Gilbert has worked on large-scale murals before. In fact, Whistlerites might recognize a mural that the Resort Municipality of Whistler commissioned her to do in a Creekside underpass last October.

However, it was more Gilbert's online content on Instagram that caught the eye of Caitlin Aboud, curator for the Sea to Sky Art House. Along with the mural outside the building, her work is also being showcased in a solo show inside.

"I wanted to have a solo show in the front room with her stuff, so people can see what else she does," Aboud says. "It's cool to meet an artist, see them (create art) and then be able to buy some of their prints."

The show features a variety of Gilbert's work from her early figurative paintings to sketches captured in the mountains and a surfboard adorned with her work. "I wanted the show to be lively and intimate and grandiose and a celebration of play and exploration," Gilbert says.

The opening of that exhibit will be celebrated as part of the Squamish Mural Party—which will culminate in the unveiling of the mural and include live painting by five other artists and food trucks on site.

"You spend so much time alone in the studio or outside working, it's funny to be in front of the camera," Gilbert says. "It's making me realize I'm quite shy. It's interesting to try and not be too nervous in front of the camera. A lot of creative types are actually quite introverted; you spend so much time working on your craft. It's a good challenge. I'm really excited about the opportunity to grow."

The Squamish Mural Party takes place on Tuesday, Aug. 14 at the Sea to Sky Art House from 7 p.m. until 11 p.m.