Art show stripped from college walls goes up at local gallery

Ryan Robson's collection Lady Like is on display at Gallery Vertigo for the month of June.

VERNON - A controversial art show pulled from the gallery at Okanagan College in Vernon has a new space to continue the conversation.

Local artist Ryan Robson’s evocative female portraits, which were deemed too disturbing for the walls of the college, will be displayed at Gallery Vertigo until the end of the month. The paintings were born out of Robson’s own experiences with sexual abuse. Robson was asked to remove them after just two weeks because of concerns they were distressing students.

“The intention with the show is to have a conversation,” Robson says. “I don’t care if people love it or hate it as long as it makes them talk about it.”

Her series Lady Like joins the work of artist Jessika LaFrambroise, whose collection, She was standing there. And then she was gone, about missing and murdered women in B.C. was supposed to go up at Okanagan College the month after Robson’s.

“Then, I wasn’t told I couldn’t, but I wasn’t told I could and another person was told to put their work up,” LaFramboise says. “It proved to me how we try to ignore missing women. That’s not right.”

The collective show is called Dear Diary, and both women have personal journal entries displayed along with the art. Viewers are encouraged to engage with the work by leaving their own entries, anonymously if they wish, in comment boxes.

“They (themes of the collection) are definitely taboo, they’re things we don’t talk about at all and it needs to be talked about,” LaFramboise says. “My biggest fear with the show is that people will come look at it, leave and not give an opinion or comments about it.”

LaFramboise collected profiles on over 100 missing or murdered women in B.C. and mapped out where they were last seen. The collection consumed hours upon hours of research over several years. Through the project, LaFramboise grew attached to “her girls.”

“The day I laid them out I got overwhelmed with sadness and anger,” LaFramboise says.

Another part of the Dear Diary collection consists of photographs taken a few summers ago when Robson and LaFramboise rallied for women’s rights outside Kelowna General Hospital. The photos show their pro-choice signs contrasting with those of the pro-life protesters who frequent the area, attempting to scare off women seeking abortions.

“We got called nasty names and got spit on,” LaFramboise says. “But if one person driving by in their car had a conversation with the person sitting next to them, it was worth it.”

The show opens this Saturday, June 7 with a reception at 7 p.m.

Ryan Robson's collection Lady Like is on display at Gallery Vertigo for the month of June.
Ryan Robson's collection Lady Like is on display at Gallery Vertigo for the month of June.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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