Artist Statement for Carla Sumarlidson
Social observation is a lifelong passion of mine and I like to experience my city through other people’s narratives. I’m curious what draws people to a place and how they mark it. The earliest origin for my Reality Bites series – the glowing heart of it – is my memory of walking down Granville Street as a young girl with my grandfather. I remember the street was aflame with the colour and energy of the neon signs and I sparked to that glamour. But for this series I chose to use the iconic lure and colourful nostalgia of many key Vancouver locations to present some honest stories and hard truths that live in their shadows. The scenes are intended to be fragmentary – mystery stories that serve as microcosms of this city’s social hierarchy and intimate character studies that explore faces and people that I’ve felt compelled to notice. These are slices of life and the viewer may complete the narrative. But for me, these are stories of a city that while troubled and hard-bitten always remains alluring.
Born in the heart of Vancouver, Carla Sumarlidson has enjoyed a diverse career as a professional artist and respected arts educator. Drawing from her early studies with mentor Gordon Smith, Sumarlidson uses iconic locations, expressive landscapes, personal experiences and metaphorical narratives to examine the raw truths and compelling beauty of the world around her. Her work feels raw and immediate and resonates with a strong emotional appeal. Sumarlidson is a street-smart social observer of her city and how its old myths, nostalgic allure and contemporary truths have shaped her own personal story. In her recent Graffiti series,
Sumarlidson employs the punked-up wild energy of urban street art and the neon romance of language to examine issues surrounding her own creative liberation – how she has struggled with challenges around trust and control while trying to achieve a new artistic freedom
Sumarlidson’s paintings have been critically recognized and widely exhibited including in a juried exhibition during New York Art Week at Chelsea’s Caelum Gallery as well as locally at the Burnaby Art Gallery. The initial painting in her celebrated Reality Bites – It’s My Life series, “The Bored Room”, was awarded Honorable Mention at a regional competition sponsored by the Burnaby Art Council and the full collection was selected by curator Penny Shen to be featured at North Vancouver’s Shipbuilder’s Pier. One of the key pieces in Sumarlidson’s current and ongoing Graffiti series has recently been selected by the Burnaby Art Gallery to be included in its upcoming landmark exhibition called Luminescence. Sumarlidson is also the recipient of both the Brizzenden Prize in Art Education and the Elmore Ozark Art Education Prize – each awarded via UBC – and has had a distinguished career dedicated to advancing knowledge and appreciation for the creative vitality in art.