Finding strength in art
Sculptor seeks balance through creativity and activity
WRITTEN BY SHELLEY BOETTCHER
PHOTOGRAPHED BY EWAN NICHOLSON
Seven days a week, for hours at a time,
Katie Ohe picks up chunks of iron and
steel—long pipes and rusty beams—and
moves them around her studio. She
climbs atop wooden crates of art, packing
and unpacking heavy—sometimes 25 kg
or more—artworks to show visitors. And
she welds, turning metal into art that
moves, clangs, jiggles and spins.
“I make sculpture. It’s an advantage
when you’re trying to stay active. You’re
moving all the time,” she says.
“Not all ideas survive. I have to believe
in the concept and its formation.”
Art has shaped every aspect of Ohe’s
life, ever since she was young. Born and
raised near Peers, Alta., Ohe, 81, studied
art at the Alberta College of Art (now
ACAD, the Alberta College of Art and
Design) before completing graduate
studies in New York City. She returned to
Canada in the 1960s and now lives and
works on an acreage near Springbank,
west of Calgary. Her work has been
shown in galleries around the world:
Greece, China, Poland, Finland, Japan,
France, the U.S. and more.
These days, she and her partner, artist
Harry Kiyooka, are creating the Kiyooka
Ohe Arts Centre and Sculpture Park on
their land. “This is our legacy,” she says.
“We’re planning artist residencies, a
research centre-library, a place for visitors
to meet artists and experience art.”
A former ACAD instructor, Ohe still
teaches occasionally. “Teaching is an
inspiration,” she says. “It keeps you
centred. It keeps you working. It keeps
you exposed. And it makes you think.”
Physical work has its risks and, a few
years ago, Ohe injured her back. To heal,
she took up yoga after a suggestion from
one of her students, a yoga teacher. “Yoga
keeps the body moving, stimulated,
strong, healthy,” Ohe says.
Being healthy, in her case, means
making art. Ohe is always working on her
next art project, a process that can take
place 24 hours a day. “I take my ideas to
bed with me,” Ohe says with a laugh.
“The imagination never sleeps.” |a
Katie Ohe poses in her art studio, where the 81-year-old creates metal sculptures that are shown in galleries around the world.