April 28 – June 10, 2023
The Art Incubator Gallery
Opening Reception: Friday April 28th, 7 -10 pm
Since early in his career, Edmonton-based visual artist Ritchie Velthuis has had the unique ability to use sculpture to capture characters that tell stories easily understood by anyone, regardless of age, background, or status. In 2001, his ceramic sculpture “FREEDOM” (Walter always feels a sense of freedom while wearing his hospital gown) was presented at the McMullen Gallery at the University of Alberta Hospital in Edmonton. Shortly thereafter, the sculpture was purchased by the Friends of the University Hospitals for their collection and quickly became a public favourite. Ritchie’s iconic sculpture, the “SCTV Monument: Bob and Doug McKenzie” shared a similar reception and was the ‘feel good’ story during the first lockdown of the COVID-19 pandemic. A welcome distraction from the surreal events of 2020, “Bob and Doug” gained national recognition and quickly became a fixture of civic pride in Edmonton’s Ice District.
Ritchie’s latest feature work is entitled “Day at the Beach,”and is inspired by visits to a friend’s cabin in Slave Lake in Northern Alberta. Beach visits are a time spent unplugging and settling into natural rhythms provided by pristine nature. The work presented documents the artist’s impression and observation of this environment.
In this sculptural installation, a series of small ceramic figures are carefully placed on a beach of Alberta sand. The figures depict ordinary people found on typical Alberta beaches. A beer can here, a bag there, along with sundry objects complete the beach scene. The sand adds a playful element and makes the urge to interact with the installation practically irresistible. Paintings of Alberta skies, the magical boreal forests, and the majestic Slave Lake surround the figures and interact with the central installation to establish a sense of place and expand the story being told.
Rather than a static installation, the figures and props will be moved periodically during the presentation of the exhibition to discover whether the placement will change the viewers’ perceptions. Different narratives will likely be made when different people and props are put together.
Ritchie Velthuis is one of the most prolific contemporary sculptors in Alberta and a well-known cultural activist. After completing the Design Arts Program at Grant MacEwan College (currently MacEwan University), Velthuis worked as a graphic designer for several years but was always drawn back to a fine art sensibility.
He has devoted the last 25 years to the exploration of sculpture in various mediums, including clay, resin, stone, cement, ice, and snow. Ritchie Velthuis is a focused and considerate artist. He has developed a repertoire of strong community-based works. This commitment was rewarded with the distinct honour of designing a “Homeless Memorial” for Edmonton in 2011, which was collaboratively created with Keith Turnbull, Mike Turnbull, and several community artists. His dedication to refining his craft was rewarded with Edmonton’s “SCTV Monument: Bob and Doug McKenzie”. Velthuis has just completed his second major bronze project, “Window into the Future”, which will be installed in Fort Saskatchewan in the Fall of 2023.
Velthuis has also received numerous prestigious awards for his ice and snow sculptures, which include People’s Choice, Artist Choice, and First Place Award in the national category of the International Snow Sculpture Event at Carnival in Québec City. His impressive body of work has been enthusiastically received among his peers and mentors and can be found in several private and public collections throughout Alberta.
Top Image: Day at the Beach (detail), ceramic, acrylic paint and sand, 2023
Photo courtesy of the artist