Boukje Elzinga: La Puerta Negra 

Titled “La Puerta Negra” (The Black Door), this exhibition was inspired by numerous trips the artist has taken to Mexico, as well as a recent trip to Peru. The paintings and sketches relate not only to the richness of the culture, but also to the element of oppressive violence that reaches at least as far…

2015 Feb 21 – 2015 May 10

Curated by Rod Taylor

The traveler sees what he sees. The tourist sees what he has come to see.

― G.K. Chesterton

If you’ve been fortunate enough to travel, chances are you’ve taken photos to remember the trip. As a visual artist however, Boukje Elzinga also records her impressions through sketches and other pieces of portable art. The work here draws (no pun intended) on a recent trip to Peru, as well as numerous prior visits to Mexico.

A travelogue of sorts, the work is less of a linear narrative, and more a collection of thoughts and observations that share the central theme of those experiences. Beginning with sketches and other preliminary work, she then used them as the basis for more involved pieces after her return to Canada. Not only did this allow time to organize her thoughts and impressions (visual or otherwise), but also to blend those perceptions more fully with the things she saw when she was there.

Along with the vibrant colours and pastoral landscapes one might expect, the work also touches on some of the darker aspects of the cultures. Sinaloa, the Mexican state Boukje has visited numerous times for example, is known for its sun and the beautiful beaches in cities like Mazatlan. But it’s also known for being home base for the Sinaloa Cartel, called by some the most powerful drug trafficking, money laundering, and organized crime syndicate in the world. And although the drug cartels are just one recent incarnation, this mix of poverty and violence has a history in Latin American culture that stretches at least as far back as the Spanish Conquistadors.

That’s not to say that they weren’t enjoyable journeys – I believe they were. But perhaps her choice to consider these things is the difference between being a “turista” and a traveller, between looking for the familiar and being open to a more complex and diverse view of the places you find yourself.

As an added attraction to the exhibition, Elzinga will occasionally be spending time painting in the gallery. For those so inclined, she welcomes the chance to talk about art, travelling, cartels, or any other subject related to the show. Work that she creates during that time will be added to the show in display cases adjacent to the gallery space.

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