Artist Rhonda Simmonds sits among her latest show

Solemate explores relationships through shoes

Show runs at Ranger Station through to May 27

Artist in Residence Rhonda Simmonds will be hosting her installation of Solemate at the Ranger Station Art Gallery in Harrison Hot Springs. The artist has been assembling her show for a year, and the presentation will include a collection of donated and borrowed vintage and modern shoes, including pairs from Alberta and the USA.

Simmonds says that her artwork is inspired by the lack of face-to-face communication that used to exist before technology moved in and the ever-increasing impact it has had and will continue to have on our day-to-day lives. Simmonds says that her installation is mostly playing with the concept of on-line dating.

“Basically,” she says, “If you’ve ever done [on-line dating], you fill out an application and you fill out a profile. The show in this case is the actual profile.”

The shoes on display have been painted and modified in a variety of ways, and each segment will have a written profile about the shoe.

“You can meet your beloved through a computer screen, why can’t you meet your s-o-l-e-m-a-t-e through a pair of shoes?”

The exhibit also critiques “how far apart we are from face-to-face contact, that technology is constantly between people in one way or another.”

Simmonds admits that her work is being extremely facetious and pokes fun at the process of on-line dating by comparing it to shopping in a shoe store.

“If you were looking for a solemate, you would come in, fill out an application, and go through the database and see if there’s a shoe that maybe interests you based on the profile.” Then as the shoes are displayed, “you can look at them, pick them up and say ‘Hmmm. You know, I think I like that one, I’d like to get to know that shoe a little bit better.’ You could even try it on if you want.”

Simmonds is a mixed-media artist, and enjoys using objects that have “had a past life,” items that were once used for something else but have exceeded their need, and recycles them into her artwork. The idea behind Solemate originally came from a project Simmonds completed while in school.

“This show is actually dedicated to my former sculpture teacher, who has passed,” she says, “he was extremely encouraging… he encouraged me to expand it and to make it an exhibit, so that’s how this one came to be.” Simmonds says that the communities of Harrisson and Agassiz have been “very good” to her, and that the environments are “a great place for an artist to create. It’s a fantastic place.”

Installations are always exciting for art-enthusiasts because attention to detail is a must, but there is also always a story being told through the different pieces. Simmonds’ work is vibrant and sparkling, but not literal. She knows what the meaning of it is for her, and encourages her audience to discover their own.