The Birch Heart basement is full of surprises. As you walk up to this nondescript house where fancy "kids" are strewn about on the lawn drinking beer and sharing smokes, your expectations always take a sudden turn as you enter the house, never quite knowing what to expect and who to run into. The living room always has several conversations going on; the kitchen, always with unexpected appetizers saran wrapped for posterity, is a hub of exchanges flowing from faces on the porch to line ups to the bathroom.
But it's the basement that you come for, where the faux wood walls transform into Edmonton's wickedly uncouthed contemporary art gallery and where visitors can find a little inspiration in the least of expected places.
With the theme of "Portraits," Birch Heart gems this go-around were found in Adam Waldon-Blain's sleekly distorted transfers, possibly an experiment in a new medium for the artist, but one that effused a sense of the known and the unique.
Same goes for Josee Aubin Oullette's 3D paper portraits, an interactive costume between audience and art where visitors may don various paper-constructed items from cigarettes and martini glasses to ties and hats, leading to the costumed pose as then documented by the artist. The sense of the same, the ephemeral, in paper costumes was less a social commentary than it was crafty, but as the digital memory card started filling up, the project is only just beginning.
Andrea Pinheiro's pieces lingering around the back corner were olfactorially taken in with sincere appreciation, always a wonder to visually take in, but in the cramped confines, the forgotten chemicals became an integral part of the experience.
The informal qualities of each Birch Heart are evident and a basis for its success, but the informality appears in slight contrast to its proprietor, who appears to be a rather serious young man. The effort and coordination of the show weighs heavily on Birch Heart the man, but here's only hoping that he himself has taken the time to appreciate the good intentions brewing in his Birch Heart basement.