Caleb Speller’s show, Plant Life, is now on at the Ministry of Casual Living. I went to the gallery yesterday. I was excited to see the show because Caleb Speller is an interesting and prolific artist. A local treasure I think you could say. He exhibited a performance/installation piece called Over My Dead Body at The Lab last year and although (stupidly) I did not see the show, I did read a lot about it and I did see some images and honestly there was something so affirming about that work. Life affirming, art affirming. It made art seem easy and fun and obvious but also completely profound. I could write a lot about how that show, even from a great distance, made me FEEL, but (stupidly) I did not see it.

It’s because of Over My Dead Body that I was so excited to see Plant Life.

Before I left home yesterday morning I googled the Ministry of Casual Living to check out the gallery hours and so on. There were no hours listed so I assumed, decided, took a chance. I drove to Sidney, parked my car, hopped a number 70 Express, got to Victoria and met up with my sister and her boyfriend. They decided, after I cajoled, to drive up to the Ministry with me and check out the show. After a little hectic lane changing and corner turning we found Haultain Corners, a very cute little place with a coffee shop that looks like a very hip hair salon, and we parked. We approached the Ministry, which is super extremely cool ( I mean it, I love it), and we looked in the window.

This is what we saw: a thickish layer of dirt studded with some weeds and roots, a stump with some dirt on top, two very big speakers (sound), a strawberry plant ( I think), some drawings in frames hanging on the wall and some on the ground leaning against the wall. Also there was a white curtain blocking our view into the larger gallery space, there was a pile of dirt outside of the door on the sidewalk, and there was a handful of letters that the mail man or lady had pushed through the letter slot. It was the letters lying there in the dirt that alerted me to the fact that the gallery might not be open to visitors.

I tried the door. It was locked. I tried it again. Still locked. I read the cute little poster taped to the door, trying to see if there were hours of operation, but no there were not. I pressed my nose to the door trying to peer past the white curtain. Nothing. I felt disappointed, I felt momentarily miserable. I felt locked out. Locked out of the gallery. Locked out of art.

I looked through the window again. I said this is the show. That dirt and those weeds and these giant speakers. I said this is art. Messy, confusing, haphazard. Locked up. Visible only through glass. Full of weeds.

If you want an experience go to the Ministry of Casual Living this Saturday. February 28th. There will be tea, green and black, between the hours of 10 and 12. Enjoy.

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