Serving of Afflictions at The Woods

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1) The good thing about plants painted on a wall is that they won’t die when you forget to water them. Hannah Eiserman

A pit stop at The Junction to see November exhibit by Ashely Marshall, what’s coming for the unconventional space

If you’ve lived in Regina for a while, someone has probably mentioned The Junction – an extremely eclectic hair salon, art gallery, and massage therapy space – to you. If not, I’m here to tell you a little about it. You may think hair salon/art gallery/massage therapy to be an odd combination of services for a single business, but it just works.

The space is in the Heritage neighbourhood, just off Albert and College Avenue, and inside an old house complete with a veranda. The bottom floor hosts the salon which features some of Regina’s most talented stylists, and gender-neutral pricing. The whole space is dedicated to being queer friendly, and there’s ample signage scattered around the place to let you know you’re welcome here, no matter what.

All kinds of art line the walls in the salon space – up the stairs to The Woods Gallery and into the hallway before you even get to the main gallery room! Currently, the gallery room is dedicated to an exhibit by Ashely Marshall called Serving of Afflictions (a self narrative) which is a collection of ceramics (mostly plates). The plates are each dedicated to mental “afflictions” like anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia. The plates, in general, have a repeating border around the edges and a depiction of Marshall painted in the middle.

I have a great respect for ceramicists, since it’s such a hard medium to work in. I thought Marshall’s collection was incredibly unique and moving. The only non-plate ceramics featured were a hanging display of ornaments and string lights called “Tangled in the Light,” which were dazzling from afar, but simply mesmerizing close-up. I spent most of my visit staring at the little bulbs and twinkling lights.

Kristina Blake, the owner of The Junction, told me that Marshall’s exhibit actually came from a contest to win an exhibit at The Woods. This type of contest seems typical. “One of our missions is to create opportunity with the space,” Blake says. “So, we do our best to accommodate as many folks as we realistically can.” If you’re an artist interested in putting some work up in the gallery, Blake tells me they have an “artist application” on their website and frequently have open calls for submissions.

Some of the other artists on the walls of the hallway were Patrick Fernandez, credited with being a vital volunteer to The Woods gallery, Geanna Dunbar, a local mixed media, piercing, and tattoo artist, and Jess Richter, whose work I hadn’t seen before, but now greatly admire. Fernandez paints portraits in lively colours and geometric patterns. The piece of Dunbar’s I noticed was an eclectic piece of mixed media using wood and other natural materials like bones. Richter does some stunning small ink portraits that could be harder to miss if they weren’t mostly black and white pieces with a touch of colour making them stand out from the other more saturated pieces. I recall standing and looking at Fernandez and Richter’s pieces in particular and thinking: “Man, I miss making art.” The pieces on display seemed to all be for sale as well, in case you are interested in bringing some home.

I will admit, I was a little skeptical of the salon/gallery/massage therapy set up, but the concept is so well executed. The space is just so comforting, homey, and inspiring. Blake also notes that The Woods “is completely volunteer based,” which adds to the eccentricity of the space. “We do the best we can,” Blake says, “but we do things a little bit differently.”

Marshall’s exhibit will be up until November 27. From there, Blake says it’s a tradition four years in the making “to host a small works group show every December called Every Nook and Cranny.” Blake says “[i]t’s always a show that hosts the most amount of new-to-us artists, [and] it’s also our most eclectic show that suits so many art preferences, styles, and price points.” The Woods will be kicking off the new year with a solo show called Sleep Spirits by Jaime Reynolds.

Those wanting to peruse the gallery can visit anytime during business hours for a “self-guided tour.” There is also an option for appointment-based visits with a business day or two notice by email at thewoods@thejunctioncreativestudio.com. The staff are delightfully friendly and respond quickly to inquiries.

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