Local artist, teacher, writer and entrepreneur Valerie Kent is featured in an Italian art magazine this month in an article discussing her Marketplace series of paintings. In 2012, Kent travelled the world, visiting local markets in order to capture the vibrant character of each location, which included urban and rural markets from Italy to Hong Kong, Taipei, Tangier, Paris and Caracas.
There was plenty to see. According to Kent, in addition to inspiring her with their vibrant sights, sounds and smells, the project confirmed her believe that markets allow people to address our need to “connect in important ways to each other.”
Social interaction is the underlying theme of her current work. She recognizes that basic human desire to interact, and through connection to make memories, experience happiness, explore what is new and exciting, and to practice commerce. She appreciates the role of social media tools such as Facebook, Tumblr, Google, StackArt, Instagram, and Linkedin, which provide other routes for the flow of information in a virtual marketplace.
Markets are an ancient avenue for social interaction, which is why Kent believes these places of commerce continue to thrive in all parts of the world. She notes that markets fill in “the missing links in the digital world; the face to face, the human contact, the smiles, frowns, yells, noise, the running of hands over tangible material, the smells of spices, fresh fruits and vegetables, bartering and bantering.”
Her trip to Italy was a dream come true. Kent travelled with other artists to ancient towns of Florence, Sienna and San Gimignano as the workshop leader, helping her companions interpret in paint what they saw and felt in the lovely Italian towns and countryside. These three destinations had wonderful markets, and one of the highlights of the trip was their visit to the flower markets in Florence.
In Sienna, her group visited the markets that weave along the cafes in the piazza. In San Gimignano, they watched as markets sprang up in the night to open on Thursdays with wares from everywhere: there were all kinds of dry goods, such as shoes, clothing and trinkets, but also some fruits and vegetables and places to buy gelato, which in Italy is not just an ice cream; it is a highly competitive food of angels.
Kent is an award-winning artist whose work has been exhibited in Canada, China, Korea, Amsterdam and Japan. She is dedicated to the creation and appreciation of art, which she does through her own painting, teaching, and in her art gallery. Last fall, she hosted the first local Outdoor Painting Festival in which more than 70 artists from across Canada came for a weekend to interpret our area through art, an event which is scheduled for a return the last weekend in September. KG