Ela Mekherjee, a ceramic artist visiting from India, has her work on display June 26-July 2 at the Vernon Community Arts Centre. (Submitted photo)

Ela Mekherjee, a ceramic artist visiting from India, has her work on display June 26-July 2 at the Vernon Community Arts Centre. (Submitted photo)

India artist leaves legacy after Okanagan visit cut short by COVID

Clay journals experiences transitioning from winter to spring, on exhibit

After coming to Vernon, all the way from India, Ela Mukherjee was planning to spend a lot more time in the city when COVID-19 cut her trip short.

She arrived in January for the CeramAir artist residency with the Vernon Community Arts Centre, where she spent her days chronicling her experiences through ceramic art and teaching classes to adults and children, while staying at the Caetani House.

“As I am from Delhi, India, one of the most populous cities of the world, the sparseness of the place was a pleasant surprise,” said Mukherjee, who had mixed feelings of wonder and desperation coming from a tropical country to Vernon, where the temperature was well below freezing.

“My initial days were difficult to make my way to the studio and back to the residence walking every day. The whole surrounding was white with snow, sidewalks were many times icy, the confusion was there between streets and avenues — all these jumbled up in my existence of adapting to the new environment. The initial works were thus more monochromatic, geometric and linear reflecting the frozen state of my mind.”

Over time, she made friends and got to know some of locals, which is where her love for the city was sparked.

“With the warmth of the people’s hearts, their welcoming smiles, their kindness, I fell in love with Vernon. I started almost living in VCAC, as I could interact with people there and I loved that. I started enjoying the beauty around, the walks were no more a task. This personal transition started getting reflected in my works and so the later works have more fluid lines, broken geometry and organic forms introduced.”

Each work from the exhibition is therefore a page from Mukherjee’s diary — steeped in the experience of the city.

“The COVID-19 outbreak forced me to leave Vernon abruptly with a proper good bye to the city and its people I fell in love with. So this exhibition is dedicated to Vernon and a way of thanking everyone there who made my residency such a memorable one. I will be happy if my works find homes in Vernon and thus, I stay on with the locals.”

The collection called Snowflakes on my Shoulder is all for sale, and is on display at the Arts Centre from Friday, June 26, to Thursday, July 2, between 9:30-4:30 p.m.

“She was a delight to have around the studio, and everyone was intrigued by her body of work,” Arts Centre marketing and events coordinator Sheri Kunzli said.

“It was her wish to return to her home country of India, with only her memories and experiences in hand,” said Kunzli. “Her legacy is left behind in the city among the people where Ela feels the work belongs.”

Despite trying to stay as long as possible to to finish what she started, Mukherjee’s residency was cut short when the world pandemic was announced. She flew out of Kelowna expecting to see her family within a day, however, the airlines stopped moving and she was stranded in Toronto for two months.

“As you can imagine, these two months were very difficult,” Kunzli said. “A GoFundMe account was eventually set up to support Ela, and thanks to the generosity of strangers, Ela was able to purchase a flight back to India when flights became available.”

It would still be weeks until she could hug her family again, as quarantine became yet another part of the ordeal when she touched down on Indian soil.

“Her journey has been an epic one, yet Ela remains humble, grateful and safe. It saddens us that Ela won’t be here to see her own art exhibit, or even touch her last few pieces that hadn’t yet been sent to the kiln for firing. But we’re doing our part to honour her journey, and all that she has given to city of Vernon.”

READ MORE: Mural tours return to downtown Vernon

READ MORE: Staff shortage closes Vernon pub


@VernonNews
jennifer@vernonmorningstar.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

art exhibitCoronavirus

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Benjamin Cashion, left, the first baby born at Shuswap Lake General Hospital in 2021, is already taking to his older brother Liam. (Submitted)
Newcomers to Shuswap welcome Salmon Arm hospital’s first baby of 2021

The Cashion family’s newest son Benjamin was born on Jan. 8.

A map released by the BCCDC on Jan. 15 shows the number of new COVID-19 cases reported for each local health area between Jan. 3 and 9. (BCCDC Image)
Salmon Arm and Vernon see increase in new COVID cases, curve flattening elsewhere

The rate of new cases is levelling off in Kelowna, Penticton and Revelstoke.

(Photo: Pixabay)
Enderby chamber proposes new rural e-business training program

The program would help rural-area businesses expand using online tools and insights

Signs in Homer, Alaska, offer inspiration during the COVID-19 pandemic. (Michael Armstrong-Homer News)
COLUMN: COVID-19 pandemic hits home

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

With bridge construction well underway on the project to replace the Solsqua-Sicamous bridge. Motorists should expect delays of up to half an hour. (Jim Elliot/Eagle Valley News)
Pedestrian path would connect Solsqua-Sicamous bridge to community

District of Sicamous staff say bridge replacement project on tight schedule

Keith the curious kitten is seen on Nov. 4, 2020 at the Chilliwack SPCA. Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 is Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 17 to 23

Answer Your Cat’s Questions Day, Pie Day and International Sweatpants Day are all coming up this week

(Phil McLachlan - Capital News)
‘Targeted’ shooting in Coquitlam leaves woman in hospital

The woman suffered non-life threatening injuries in what police believe to be a targeted shooting Saturday morning

The organizer of a Kelowna protest against COVID-19 restrictions was fined by the RCMP for the third time Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19: Organizer of Kelowna anti-restriction protest ticketed for third time

The individual’s latest ticket for $2,300 was handed out by RCMP at an anti-lockdown rally Saturday

Mount Boucherie Secondary School is one of three Kelowna schools with confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to an update from the school district Saturday, Jan. 16, 2021. (File photo)
COVID-19 confirmed at 3 Kelowna schools

Interior Health has confirmed exposures at Mount Boucherie, Springvalley and South Rutland schools

Half of the most expensive homes are on 2080 Mackenzie Crt, which is across the street from Revelstoke Mountain Resort. (Liam Harrap/Revelstoke Review)
The 10 most valuable homes in Revelstoke for 2020

Combined, the properties are worth more than $35M

Lake Country native Evan-Riley Brown is in the cast for the new film Journey To Royal: A WW II Rescue Mission to be released on video on demand and streaming services on Feb. 2. (Contributed)
Okanagan actor lands role in WW II movie

Evan-Riley Brown, from Lake Country, cast in production labelled as hybrid of a feature film and documentary called Journey To Royal: a WW II Rescue Mission.

JaHyung Lee, “Canada’s oldest senior” at 110 years old, received his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Jan. 14, 2021. He lives at Amenida Seniors Community in Newton. (Submitted photo: Amenida Seniors Community)
A unique-looking deer has been visiting a Nanoose Bay property with its mother. (Frieda Van der Ree photo)
A deer with 3 ears? Unique animal routinely visits B.C. property

Experts say interesting look may be result of an injury rather than an odd birth defect

Standardized foundation skills assessment tests in B.C. schools will be going ahead later than usual, from Feb. 16 to March 12 for students in Grades 4 and 7. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. teachers say COVID-affected school year perfect time to end standardized tests

Foundational skills testing of Grade 4 and 7 students planned for February ad March

Most Read