A new Rodin in Whistler 

Local artist Michelle Yamamoto paints herself into a modern day Rodin for Self Portrait-Inner Landscapes exhibit at ARTrageous

click to enlarge A Familiar Shape Artist Michelle Yamamoto challenges her paint brush and her confidence to nude self portraits honouring the work of master sculptor August Rodin at ARTrageous.
  • A Familiar Shape Artist Michelle Yamamoto challenges her paint brush and her confidence to nude self portraits honouring the work of master sculptor August Rodin at ARTrageous.

What: Cornucopia

What: ARTrageous

When: Thursday, Nov. 8, 9 p.m.

Where: The Brewhouse

Tickets: $45/$25

Rodin’s 19 th -century sculpture, The Caryatid Carrying a Stone, comes to life under the paintbrush and body shape of a modern day 21 st -century artist in Whistler.

Like Rodin’s caryatid model, local painter Michelle Yamamoto poses nude in the crouching position with hands baring an invisible weight. Internationally acclaimed photographer Bonny Makarewicz photographs the famous recreation, which Yamamoto will later paint from, as one of the installments showcased in the Self Portrait – Inner Landscapes art exhibition at ARTrageous on Thursday, Nov. 8 at 9 p.m. at the Brewhouse as part of Cornucopia celebrations.

“I totally freaked out when I first saw the photos,” Yamamoto admits. “I told Bonny the next day that we could only display thumbnail size photos next to the paintings.”

But a few weeks and paintings later Yamamoto’s confidence, along with Makarewicz’s photos, have grown. Both photo and painting will be boldly displayed side by side in Yamamoto’s installment called A Tribute To Rodin.

Vulnerable doesn’t even begin to explain the feelings Yamamoto will feel when her nude form will be publicly displayed. However, the single mother is ready and extremely excited about the intimate and raw showing.

“As an artist, companion, mother and friend, I’ve come to a nice place in my life where I feel complete,” she said. “I don’t think someone could paint themselves nude if they didn’t have an inner confidence… I have a lot of inner peace.”

The master sculptor’s works always inspired confidence in the young art student who viewed a Rodin exhibition in Tokyo in 1990. The exhibition later led Yamamoto to sculpting of her own.

“I was awe-inspired by how his works compellingly show the female form aware of her sexuality, without shame, assertive, not passive, but supremely elegant and powerful,” she said. “This experience awoke my connection with the artist within, which had not been fully realized yet.”

Seven years ago, Yamamoto opened her first solo art exhibit to rave reviews in three national newspapers and Asia People Magazine in the Philippines. However, bogged down in distractions and duties such as commissioned commercial work, divorce and raising a son alone, it wasn’t until this year that the university-credited illustrator jumped into her paint box with both feet. The result was a highly successful, all-new showing called Yinspiration at ArtWalk, where many of her paintings sold. Self Portrait – Inner Landscapes is the next step in her artist adventure, the springboard for what will grow to a solo showing in spring 2008.

Three acrylic self portraits inspired by two of Rodin’s masterpieces, Eve and Fallen Caryatid, will be displayed at the Self Portrait exhibit.

Poetically, Yamamoto’s Fallen Caryatid portrait illustrates her own journey as an artist as well as the journey of the installment itself — the cajoling of a determined Whistler Arts Council member who wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Writer Robert Heinlein’s story about Rodin’s Caryatid best narrates this journey: “She’s a symbol for every woman who ever shouldered a load too heavy,” he writes of the artwork. “But not women alone— this symbol means every man and woman who ever sweated out life in uncomplaining fortitude until they crumpled under their loads. It’s courage… and victory. Victory in defeat, there is none higher. She didn’t give up… she’s still trying to lift that stone after it has crushed her. She’s all the unsung heroes who couldn’t make it but never quit.”

Yamamoto is one of a dozen artists showcased at ARTrageous. Other artists displaying at the juried exhibition include Alexei Lopez Villasecam who paints in watercolours; Bernd Vey, who creates wood and metal sculptures; photographer Bruce Rowles; Daniel Poisson, who works in acrylic and spray paint; Jeff Heintzman, whose medium is pastels; Kate Dutton works in India ink and mixed media; Lauren Ritz, who uses enamel spray and ink; Maria Sadner works in mixed media; Natalia Vanessa creates with acrylic and pen; acrylics painter Vanessa Stark; and photographer Wim Tewinkel.

The evening will explode into colour and creativity with dance showcases, circus acts, live body painting, palm reading, physic readings, tarot cards, live music from Soulstream, self-portrait painting and numerous art stations including Adorn Yourself, The 2 Doors to Success, the Tickle Trunk Photo Studio and Fun House Mirrors.

In addition to this showcase of imaginations gone wild, ARTrageous also includes beer, wine and food tastings throughout the night.

All proceeds from the evening will benefit the local arts umbrella organization, which works to build and integrate the arts into the fabric of Whistler.

Tickets are $45 through whistler.com. However, if you buy your ticket from the Whistler Arts Council, the $45 ticket will include a free membership to the Whistler Arts Council (a $25 value), which entitles the holder to discounts at other council events. Tickets for existing Whistler Arts Council members are $25. To contact the Whistler Arts Council visit their offices behind Marketplace or call 604-938-9221.

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