Years ago, when my husband played me the Led Zepplin song Kashmir, he pointed out this line and, forever after, it has called to my soul.
Each time I’ve heard it since, I’ve longed to “…. sit with elders of a gentle race,” and it dawned on me last week that indeed I was having the wonderful opportunity to do just that. I was going to have lunch with Katie Ohe and Harry Kiyooka at their house – the house west of Calgary they’re converting to an art centre named KOAC.
In fact, I was having lunch with them for the second day in a row. Every year Katie generously invites me to use her printing studio to create my annual silkscreen print, and I so look forward to those times shared with them. They truly are elders of a gentle race, artistic geniuses, trailblazers of Alberta’s art world and genuinely caring people. Together they combine more than 130 years of artistic experience, so you might assume this would make them unapproachable. In fact, the opposite is true. They became artists because their urge to create is visceral. They have spent their lives devoted to that passion and to sharing it with the people who cross their paths.
As Jeff Bray, a brilliant multi-disciplinary artist from Calgary, says “When Katie holds both your hands in hers and talks to you, you feel like you are the only person in the world.” In truth, Katie makes each one of us feel that way. Her boundless passion for the process of creating art is only matched by her passion for sharing with others. Her warmth, her experience, her skill, her ideas, her process, and her curiosity is always in trade for yours.
The Esker Foundation in Calgary is presenting a retrospective exhibition of Katie’s formidable life’s work from January 25 to May 3rd 2020. In their words, “For over 60 years, Katie Ohe has been a catalysing force in Calgary’s art community as an artist, mentor, teacher, supporter, and builder. As one of Alberta’s most important artistic figures, she has made a significant contribution to the development of contemporary art in the province and her innovative approaches to material, form, movement, and participation have been a meaningful influence for generations. This eponymous exhibition—her largest and most comprehensive solo exhibition to date—traces the development of work through six decades of Ohe’s remarkable sculptural practice.” I can’t wait to see this fabulous collection in the Esker’s beautiful exhibition space!
Simultaneously, you can see a selection of hers and of her husband Harry’s early work at the Herringer Kiss Gallery in Calgary.
Katie has shared so much of her wisdom with so many of us over the years, and I am truly grateful. Every day, as I push through the challenges of being an artist, her precious words come to me and reassure me that all is as it should be.