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

FILE - In this April 19, 2021, file photo, Keidy Ventura, 17, receives her first dose of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine in West New York, N.J. States across the country are dramatically scaling back their COVID-19 vaccine orders as interest in the shots wanes, putting the goal of herd immunity further out of reach. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
5 more deaths, 131 new cases of COVID-19 in Interior Health over the weekend

Those 18-years and older in high-transmission neighbourhoods can register for the vaccine

Danny Fulton receives his first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine at the Coast Capri Hotel on April 27. The pop-up clinic was hosted by the First Nations Health Authority. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
All adults in Rutland, Summerland now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccine

Province expands age range to 18+ for vaccinations in ‘high transmission’ areas

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Penticton RCMP search for 2 suspicious men

Police searching the area of Arawana Forest Service Road

Penticton Lions are hoping to send kids and adults with disabilities to Camp Winfield through a 50/50 raffle draw on now. (Submitted)
Penticton’s Lion’s Club helps to send kids to Camp Winfield

Online 50/50 raffle tickets will send kids and adults with disabilities to Camp Winfield

A bullet hole is seen in the windshield of an RCMP vehicle approximately 4 km from Vancouver International Airport after a one person was killed during a shooting outside the international departures terminal at the airport, in Richmond, B.C., Sunday, May 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Homicide team IDs man in fatal YVR shooting as police grapple with spate of gang violence

Man, 20, charged in separate fatal shooting Burnaby over the weekend

RCMP. (Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
UPDATE: Winfield road open following police, coroner investigation

Pelmewash Parkway closure near Highway 97 connection

Kelowna resident Sally Wallick helped rescue a kayaker in distress a week and a half ago. (Sally Wallick/Contributed)
VIDEO: Kelowna woman rescues capsized kayaker in Okanagan Lake

Sally Wallick is asking people to be prepared for the cold water and unpredictable winds

The B.C. legislature went from 85 seats to 87 before the 2017 election, causing a reorganization with curved rows and new desks squeezed in at the back. The next electoral boundary review could see another six seats added. (Black Press files)
B.C. election law could add six seats, remove rural protection

North, Kootenays could lose seats as cities gain more

The Independent Investigations Office of B.C. is investigating the shooting of an Indigenous woman in the Ucluelet First Nation community of Hitacu. (Black Press Media file photo)
B.C. First Nation wants ‘massive change’ after its 3rd police shooting in less than a year

Nuu-chah-nulth woman recovering from gunshot wounds in weekend incident near Ucluelet

RCMP (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
High-risk takedown on Highway 1 following Shuswap shooting

Upon further investigation, the vehicle and its occupants were not associated with the shooting

Nurse Gurinder Rai, left, administers the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine to Maria Yule at a Fraser Health drive-thru vaccination site, in Coquitlam, B.C., on Wednesday, May 5, 2021. The site is open for vaccinations 11 hours per day to those who have pre-booked an appointment. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
COVID vaccine bookings to open for adults 40+, or 18+ in hotspots, across B.C.

Only people who have registered will get their alert to book

Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO of Fraser Health, hosts an update on efforts to contain B.C.’s COVID-19 transmission in Surrey and the Fraser Valley and protect hospitals in the Lower Mainland, May 6, 2021. (B.C. government video)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate slowing, 20 more people die

Deaths include two people in their 40s, two in their 50s

Most Read