By Jaykob Storey 
BELLEVILLE – The Parrott Gallery  at Belleville Public Library hosted a reception on Saturday for four new art exhibitions.
The featured exhibitions were Mark Bartikw’s Grief Encounters, Marlene McCallum’ s The Unfolding Narrative, David Morrish ’s The Agglomeration Imperative (#1) and Nancy Sherk’s Waterways and Pathways. The works include paintings, photography, art books and curio collections.
The exhibitions proved popular on opening day, as the gallery was packed with guests. All four featured artists were present and spent the afternoon discussing their work with visitors.
The first exhibit a visitor sees when entering the gallery is The Unfolding Narrative. What appear to be pages from a book are arranged inside a cabinet. “It is a book, and also an art piece,” explained McCallum.
“It actually resists definition as a single form of art. It exists to completely challenge someone’s notion of what a book is. It’s a hybrid form … It’s not limited by expectation or genre conventions.
“We are taught that art is not to be touched, but when it’s a book, that changes. So how do you present that to people in a gallery?”
Saturday’s experience was nothing new for McCallum, whose work has been featured in more than 110 galleries, starting in 1985. Being featured in the Parrott Gallery “is a really great way to share my work with the area and to make an introduction for myself.”
Right next to McCallum’s display is that of Morrish, her husband. Three cabinets are filled to the brim with curious objects: bottles, dolls, figurines, preserved animal heads, mice in whimsical costumes and even bones. Little skeletons and skulls fill the collection, and the large cranium of a giraffe is its centrepiece.
Morrish says that collecting is an imperative, a compulsion, for him. The collection is “an expression of my own need to collect and to be a hoarder.
“My focus was initially on natural history, but later I extended that to human mortality.”
Asked about the giraffe skull, he laughs. “It wasn’t cheap. He cost me four digits, but I had to have him.”
Just as Morrish’s collection contrasts with the works that surrounds it, Morrish himself is a stark contrast to his fellow artists. While the others arrived in dressy clothes, he wore jeans and a black T-shirt bearing an image of a human skull.
Sherk’s collection, Waterways and Pathways, is the most traditional of the four exhibits, featuring colourful acrylic paintings of nature scenes.
“All of the paintings are of places I’ve been,” she said. “Many of these are from the Huntsville (Ont.) area. One of them is my backyard.”
Although this is her first solo show, she has been painting since she was a teenager. The more than two dozen paintings on the walls of the gallery make up only a small fraction of her body of work, she said. All the paintings in the show were done in the past six months.
Bartikw’s Grief Encounters consists of photographs of small figurines set against various backdrops and real-life locations to create still scenes. In the corner of the display is a small retro-style television set playing a few of his photographs on loop. “Nothing is Photoshopped or superimposed,” said Bartikw. “It’s all lit in-house. Everything is there – it’s all tangible.”
He got the idea for this kind of work after being involved in shooting an advertisement for the Royal Bank of Canada: “I bought some miniature scale people and shot some ads for RBC. I decided to take these figures and make my own dioramas, but that wasn’t enough.
“I started taking them outside and placing them in front of a monitor to create scenes. I’ve been working on this for about two and a half or three years.”
For the next three Thursdays at 8 p.m., three of the featured artists will be taking part in Artist Talk, question-and-answer sessions at which they will discuss their works and their creative process. Bartikw will be appearing this Thursday, MacCallum on Jan. 26 and Morrish on Feb. 2.