Most people think of the Arctic as flat, featureless and colourless. Ottawa photographer Michelle Valberg is out to prove them wrong.
Valberg is one of Ottawa’s most celebrated landscape photographers. Her work has been widely published in such magazines as National Geographic and Canadian Geographic. Her new exhibition, Arctic Kaleidoscope, at Exposure Gallery shows why she is held in high esteem.
The exhibition includes some absolutely stunning images of icebergs and glaciers. Valberg turns these jagged mounds of ice into giant, sparkling diamonds emitting an intense blue light.
Yes, the colours are “enhanced,” to use Valberg’s term. But didn’t Lawren Harris “enhance” colours in his awesome paintings of northern landscapes? Valberg, like Harris, is creating art, not documentary photographs. She is not just giving us brilliant blue icebergs, but the essence of brilliant blue icebergs. You could say Valberg captures the soul of an iceberg.
Valberg’s images of parka-clad Inuit are also successful artistic journeys. She has made these people part of the landscape, rather than an object in the landscape. The colours of their parkas, whether in fur or brightly coloured cloth, blend into the colours of the land around them. These are people who have seemingly sprouted fully-grown from the soil.
Arctic Kaleidoscope is something of a departure for Exposure Gallery, a photo-friendly space atop the Thyme and Again food emporium on Wellington Street. The gallery tends to specialize in modestly priced photo-art from names far less famous than Valberg, whose photographs are being sold at prices from $600 to $1,500.
Just down the street is Cube Gallery, which tends to specialize in modestly-priced art in all media. But last fall Cube gambled on an exhibition of Joe Fafard’s animal sculptures, whose costs soared up to $21,000 for some works. Ottawa collectors flocked to the gallery, ordering multiples of many of the sculptures by the Saskatchewan artist. The lesson: Ottawa will pay high prices for quality art by a famous name, despite the city’s reputation for being stingy when acquiring art.
Valberg’s exhibition at Exposure continues until March 5.