The seasick and thalassophobic should steer clear of the Exchange District’s always vibrant cre8ery Gallery and Studio for the next few weeks. For everyone else, batten down the hatches and explore artist Maureen Babb’s newest collection, A Star to Steer by, from Nov. 23 to Dec. 5.
“It’s about escape and adventure and boats and water. It’s very nautically themed,” Babb, an artist and academic librarian by day, says.
The exhibition’s title is drawn from 20th-century English poet John Masefield’s work “Sea-Fever.”
“That poem in particular is about wanting this freedom of being out on the water, out in the ocean. Despite being in the middle of the Prairie provinces, that’s something I relate to very much and wanted to capture,” Babb says.
“I have very much a love affair with water and adventure and where that can take you, the sense of joy that comes from that.”
The mixed-media exhibition, their second showing at cre8ery, is a comprehensive display of their multidisciplinary talents as an artist. She combines abstract alcohol inkwork and traditional illustrations, along with digital art and wire-and-stone jewelry to convey the sense of longing and escape of the storied Age of Sail.
While Masefield provided the title for the exhibition, Babb cites the work of sculptor Ren. Quillivic as a major visual inspiration.
“I mention Quillivic in the press release, because the style I started doing was very much inspired by some of his woodcuts specifically. His have a real sense of motion in the water, which isn’t always the case,” they say.
Jordan Miller, the executive director and owner of cre8ery, connected with Babb after meeting them at an event Miller hosted. She’s quick to reiterate the gallery’s accessibility to amateur artists.
“cre8ery is open to all,” Miller says. “We ask the community who would like to do a show, and then they book the gallery and bring their art down. We show it, we sell it, we don’t say ‘hey, you can’t show here.’ There are no parameters.”
She feels her role as a gallery owner is to build an artistic storyline through collaboration between the artist and the gallery.
“When I look at it, I try to find my own story,” Miller says. “I feel like Maureen’s will be something that people can connect to, they can relate to. It’s images that are easy on the eyes.”
Curiously, Babb cites some of her more rigid work as a scientific illustrator, which she has done work for the University of Winnipeg's anthropology department, as informative on the more free-flowing, creative work in A Star to Steer by.
“There are some (pieces) that are at the bottom of the ocean. They’ve got not only water, but soil. I was trying to figure out how to do the soil, and then I decided well, what about geological cross-sections? That’s what the soil looks like in those pieces,” Babb says.
Miller anticipates a positive reception for Babb and their seafaring spectacle.
“I’m looking forward to having the community show up for her and really appreciate the work that went into it,” she says.
cre8ery Gallery and Studio is located at 125 Adelaide St. in the Exchange District. Maureen Babb’s A Star to Steer by exhibit runs from Nov. 23 to Dec. 5.
Published in Volume 78, Number 11 of The Uniter (November 23, 2023)