Robert Bateman, the celebrated and prolific artist known globally for his wildlife and nature works, is celebrating his 92nd birthday on May 24, and the gallery that bears his name is marking the occasion with a special exhibit.
Heart and Home, which opens June 18 at the Robert Bateman Gallery on Victoria’s Inner Harbour, highlights personal cards and other pieces created by the artist, ecologist and activist, who makes his home on Salt Spring Island.
David Schneider, chair of the Bateman Foundation, said the artist continues to paint every day in his Salt Spring studio, and the items in the Heart and Home Exhibit — including paintings, drawings and furniture pieces gifted to loved ones — are all personal and intimate.
“In today’s world of birthday greetings or valentines, people use social media or brief texts, but not Bob [Bateman] … he continues to create personal items for family and friends. I think people will really like what they see,” Schneider said.
“This exhibit will remind us of the fundamental truth — our connections to each other creates a full life.”
The exhibit, which will run through to November at the gallery, which attracts about 20,000 visitors a year, captures birthdays and holidays and the love that Bateman shares with his close family and friends, say organizers.
“It sheds a new light on this brilliant artist,” says Andrea Terrón, curator of the exhibit and head of the Bateman Gallery.
“The exhibition immerses guests to see Robert through the lens of loved ones. You’ll find a mix of masterpieces and pieces that are and will become cherished treasures passed down for generations.”
Terrón said just as Bateman likes capturing the fleeting moments of light in the natural world, “Robert savours the moments of creating gifts to express his care.”
Guests are able to step into Bateman’s studio and be immersed in the artist’s space. In the next room, a Bateman Christmas in the ’90s includes a 54-inch sculpted Nutcracker with a mischievous grin standing beside a handcrafted Christmas crèche.
“This exhibit provides a very different and emotional experience,” said John Bateman, Robert Bateman’s son and vice-chair of the Bateman Foundation. “Dad once said: ‘What we see, and experience, is what we become, it’s what we teach, it’s what we leave behind.’ This exhibit reminds people to stop, reflect, and be present. If we’ve learned anything from the pandemic, it is the fleeting and shared connections with our loved ones that leave a mark on our life.”
Bateman’s birthday week of May 24 to 28 will also be celebrated with admission by donation and activities in the gallery, a birthday card challenge and a donation drive for the foundation, said Sarah Theophilus, acting general manager of the Bateman Foundation.
The foundation is challenging everyone to create an original birthday card design inspired by the artist and his philosophy. The card designs will be shared with Bateman and one will be selected to win a NatureSketch course, the foundation’s flagship learning program. Designs can be submitted in person, by social media (#BatemanBirthdayCard) and by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Next week will be the last week of the guest exhibit Environment Impact II, before the gallery closes for three weeks in preparation of Bateman’s Heart and Home exhibit.
The foundation is also calling for donations to its learning program, NatureSketch, to make it accessible to marginalized community groups and schools. The goal is to raise $50,000 before the end of 2022.
Dave Obee, publisher and editor of the Times Colonist, said Bateman has been generously donating his art to be published in this newspaper since 2013. A Bateman piece has been gracing the front pages every Christmas or New Year’s as his gift to readers, and “it’s very much become a Christmas tradition now,” said Obee.