Seven Portals: Jae Sterling’s new immersive installation transforms Truck Contemporary Art into a zone of contemplation.
by Amie Osness, Contributor
The way the pandemic has made people reflect on their past, present, and future is the focus of a new art exhibition, showcasing the multidisciplinary work of Jae Sterling called Seven Portals displayed at Truck Contemporary Art in Calgary.
Arts Commons 2022 curator Sterling uses an immersive experience of light, paintings, film and soundscapes to create a space very different from what many people have experienced through the pandemic. The portals offer contemplation and reflection, from where the pandemic has held people back, and where they may strive next.
Painting has always been a therapeutic process for Sterling, one which helped him deal with all the pandemic’s difficulties. Beginning his artistic career as a rapper, Sterling had finished a tour just before COVID-19 got serious.
While other artists turned to online platforms to maintain a connection with their audience over the pandemic, Sterling knew that that wasn’t the right choice for him then, so he started sketching and painting. He felt it made the experience much less dispiriting.
“It could have been, not being able to make music anymore, not being able to tour anymore because of the pandemic, losing loved ones, the world coming to a halt, you know, I’m very grateful,” Sterling said.
The portals first began as his subconscious reaction to his restricted reality, and over time, Sterling saw the portals as allowing him to travel.
“And that’s how a lot of my work reveals itself to me,” said Sterling.
While he feels online connection has been an important part of the pandemic, Sterling wants to create more opportunities for real-life experience.
“I don’t want to turn to my phone for that anymore. So, I decided to put that in my work,” Sterling said.
As a co-founder of the sansfuccs art collective and FOREIGNERZ production house, Sterling and other local talent have been bringing a continual flow of events and exhibits to Calgary’s core this year. As FOREIGNERZ focuses primarily on QTBIPOC artists, they give a voice to those underrepresented in Calgary and Alberta.
And while Sterling doesn’t blame anyone for it, he notes that there’s a certain notoriety other Canadian cities seem to give their artists who haven’t been figured out yet in regard to the Calgary scene. Most of the people following Sterling’s work, which includes The Guide and The Protector, the Black Lives Matter mural in Chinatown, happen to be other Calgary artists.
Although this is encouraging for Sterling, and a positive way to interact with the next generation of Calgary artists, he feels that more of Calgary’s population needs to be brave and take a chance on new experiences downtown.
“I’m trying to bridge that gap,” said Sterling.
Sterling hopes this will be the first of many installations, which will bring viewers into a space not to just see paintings, but to feel a connection, interaction and meditation with art. As he’s witnessed how hard the pandemic has been for some people, and how difficult it can be to get out of traumatic spaces, he wants to offer an experience to counteract negativity.
“We’re trying to create a space here that’s really on the nose as far as being uplifting and spiritual.”