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Show allows Yk artists to 'come out of the closet'

Rosalind Mercredi, owner of Down to Earth Gallery and organizer behind the Anonymous Art Show, has had around 150 paintings come back and more keep arriving as she speaks. The show, which features six by six inch canvases adorned by Yellowknife residents, runs until Sunday. Emelie Peacock/NNSL photo

Every year Rosalind Mercredi continues to marvel over the amount of creativity that can fit onto a six by six inch canvas.

Sitting at the back of the Down to Earth Gallery in her studio surrounded by submissions to the annual Anonymous Art Show and Sale, Mercredi said each year is different.

“Last year we had no three dimensional and this year we got so many three dimensional. We've had beading ones, fur-covered ones, metal-covered,” she said. “There's quilted, felted, photography, you name it. People have taken the canvas off and made it like a shadow box. Your imagination is the limit, if you can do it on a square thing, six inches, then go for it.”

The show, which runs until Sunday, has a simple premise. For six years in a row, Mercredi has put a call out for artists to participate in the show. Artists pay a small fee for a canvas, $6, take the canvas home and get creative. The canvases that get submitted are hung up on the walls of the Down to Earth Gallery without a signature or name of the artist. If the piece sells, the artist gets $60 and $20 goes to the gallery. If the art doesn't sell, it goes back to the artist.

This year, of 175 canvases given out, 150 have so far come back and more submissions stream in as Mercredi speaks. Some artists procrastinate until the very end and submit recently finished pieces. Mercredi remembered a specific painting with thick brushes of oil paint that refused to dry.

“Everytime we touched it. For months, we didn't pick it up for a long time and when we did we said 'Oh, still!'” she remembered.

In front of her a fine art photograph glued onto a canvas sits beside a giant red felt creation velcroed on another, origami creations hang from a third. There is no shortage of creativity and no limit to the type of mediums used by the anonymous artists who have decided to participate this year.

Mercredi most enjoys seeing art become a part of people's lives as a result of the show with the tiny canvases.

“People who are at full time jobs too, it keeps them kind of thinking about art or doing art or experimenting,” she said. “You might do art but you don't, you just don't show it anywhere, it's private right. It's like these closet artists. It gives you a chance to put something on the wall and not have to worry that you're going to be judged.”

After six years the canvases have made their way into people's homes and their hearts.

“Everyone who has been involved buys one every year because they're so good. So you go to people's houses now and you see these groupings of six inch squares,” Mercredi said.