Jeffries new gallery director

February 09, 2006, vol. 35, no. 3
By Michael Boxall

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The Simon Fraser University gallery has a new director and perhaps a new direction. Bill Jeffries starts the job enthusiastic about extending the venue's scope beyond Burnaby Mountain.

“I'd always said it was a shame the SFU gallery didn't have a higher profile,” Jeffries says. “Then I found out there were plans in relation to Woodward's or here on the hill to expand. That was of great interest to me. It's exciting to be part of something that could add a major component to what we have here in the Lower Mainland.”

Jeffries used to be director and curator at Presentation House gallery, North Vancouver's world-renowned photography gallery. That experience will be useful in planning shows at SFU, given the gallery's limited finances.

“There's no budget to do star shows and bring in really famous people. On the other hand, there are an infinite number of interesting projects that can capture people's imaginations.”

As one possibility he cites research he has been doing with Carol Sawyer on all the vehicles that have belonged to the city of Vancouver. These were photographed for insurance purposes.

“They did a complete inventory in 1959. A lot of the vehicles were pre-First World War. They look like gypsy wagons with licence plates. A show of those pictures would be so different from what anybody else is doing. It's just quirky enough to find an audience.”
Jeffries, who is also interested in printmaking and sculpture, wants to do eight shows a year. Two will be historical. Opening in May is an exhibition of photographs by Weegee, a New York street photographer.

His first show, though, is of paintings by Dave Ostrem, an American artist living in Vancouver. The show is called Reading Art. The paintings are figurative and have a comic-like gaiety. Each one uses all the primary colors and has elements from earlier artists ranging from Vermeer to Robert Smithson. It's a bright, appealing display.

“This is like 42nd Street out here,” Jeffries says, gesturing at the vast hallway outside the gallery. “Ten to 20,000 people walk past every day. On average about 150 come in.

“One change from the past is that if a show comes along that I think won't work for the students, then I won't run it. The students are the primary audience.” Jeffries will speak about Ostrem's paintings on Feb. 14 at 12:30 p.m. and Feb. 15 at noon at the gallery.

Reading Art will run until Feb. 18. The SFU gallery is open Tuesday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5p.m. Other work by Ostrem is currently on display at the Teck gallery at SFU Vancouver. The Teck gallery is open from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day except Sunday when it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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