Miss White Spider Transports you to a Spellbinding reality this June, with her Shadow Theatre performance The Selkie Bride at Glendale Theatre and her exhibit Enchanted Forest showing at the Station House Gallery.
Few artists embrace mystery and muse as devotedly as Miss White Spider Arts’ Al-Lisa McKay. Her body of work resembles her in spirit, beauty and alchemy. She was born to do it, to create work that belongs in a sophisticated fairy tale. As you absorb it, whether it be paintings, music, theatre or dolls, an underlying connectivity emerges, drawing the observer into the art experience. As though she were tending an exquisite flower garden, Al-Lisa cares for her connection to her creative muse, opening herself up to the visionary flow that would pour in from another place and time. What emerges speaks to the relationship between nature, ancestry and magic.
Al-Lisa has identified as an artist since childhood. With a reverence towards the creative process, her work often feels guided by something outside herself. She rebels against set forms and structures, preferring to let the creation determine its own way into form. Al-Lisa also confesses to have a very short attention span. Some might view this as a liability, but Al-Lisa frames it differently. “It leads me to try new things. I lose inspiration if I have to stick with one medium for too long,” she explains. “I have often been told that I will not succeed as an artist if I do not focus only on one medium.”
In the last four years, Al-Lisa has shifted her attention to live performance theatre, a choice that sees her weave the varied elements of her art into one moving experience. She composes the soundtrack for each piece in her own style of world beat/folk electronica, crafts the shadow puppets and backgrounds that are projected and then adds richer dimension with video projections, music from the region represented, dance and storytelling. It is a feast for the senses.
Mystery is at the heart of Al-Lisa’s attraction to shadow theatre and puppetry. Firstly, at its core, it is an interplay between light and dark. “It’s what life is based on,” Al-Lisa affirms. “Many epic stories contain an element of dark vs. light.” In Al-Lisa’s view, light and dark are not so polarized; rather they merge to create the dimension in our lives. Then there is the open space created by the shadow puppetry, something Al-Lisa considers unique to the form. Even though the shadow puppetry is visual, audience members bring a great deal of themselves to it. “I like leaving so much up to the viewer’s imagination, so the story can be left up to them to co-create.”
The Selkie Bride is a folk story that originates in the Orkney Isles of Scotland, one of Al-Lisa’s ancestral homes. She describes the pull to work with and represent Scotland with a tale from this rugged landscape. The Scottish folklore and heritage group, ORKNEYJAR, propose that, “Magic has fled the world... but not completely. It has taken refuge in the few places remaining where it can still thrive. Orkney is one such place.” A she explored the folk tales, Al-Lisa encountered many tales that felt rather heavy. “The Selkie Bride was the softest of the stories,” she laughs.
The tale revolves around a woman of the Selkie folk, enchanting seal beings who are able to shed their skins and frolic in human form when the time or tides are just right. In legend, a lone male will come across the Selkie, and compel her to marry him, by withholding her ‘seal’ skin from her. At its heart, the tale is about wildness, being born free and the nature of belonging. The story resonates with Al-Lisa, especially as an artist who creates in her own times and rhythms, preferring to be unhindered by outside influences in that process. She has spent her life building and embodying her truth, honing the ability to express in alignment with who she is at heart. The story of the Selkie woman symbolizes the call of one’s true home, by understanding one’s nature.
Al-Lisa’s Secwepemc relative used to tell her that she walked in two worlds. Her ancestral Secwepemc heritage expresses itself as a very different rhythm to that of predominant white culture. Yet, she knows that she holds the imprint of her other ancestors, including the Scottish, the Dutch and the Spanish. Al-Lisa braids these traditions together, while learning to honour the gifts each culture has brought to her spirit. With this, a committed purpose has taken shape in her life, one that guides her to share the beauty of multi-culturalism. “When we are more sensitive to each other’s backgrounds,” she adds, “We can assist each other in being ourselves.” She deeply trusts that our global rainbow of culture shows us the interconnectivity of humanity, just as each culture’s folk stories taught us how to be good humans.
Recently, the Canadian Mental Health Association in Williams Lake hired Al-Lisa as a Multi-Cultural Coordinator, along with Tracy Elkins. The job provides the potential to further her purpose by strengthening the cultural and spiritual connections found in our community, and she is discovering specific ways she can contribute. In addition to her new position at CMHA, she continues to teach art classes to youth, to host children’s parties, and somehow finds the time to make things of beauty.
As part of her work with the Community Arts Council, Al-Lisa will give multi-cultural presentation to several Grade 7 classes at Columneetza Junior Secondary School this June. The program’s underlying message reveals humanity’s interrelatedness and cultural diversity through puppets and masks from around the world. When Al-Lisa developed the program, she had several goals and intentions that guided her: “To celebrate and embrace those diverse lineages in themselves and in other people. To bring awareness to global acceptance of all our mixed lineages and cultures. To initiate healing by showing the creative similarities and differences of other cultures through stories.”
The magic of art is that it transports us, even opens our minds to discover new ways of seeing. Al-Lisa’s devotion to the creative process fuses with her deep sensitivity to culture and story, yielding an array of expression that captivates the imagination. There is wildness in it, the natural strength of nature and the playfulness of a child.
To discover the unique lens through which Miss White Spider sees the world, join us on the evening of Wednesday, June 20th at Glendale Theatre for The Selkie Bride. Tickets are $15 and are available at the Open Book and Red Shreds. The performance begins at 8 pm, and is not suitable for children under 12 years of age. The Station House Gallery will exhibit The Enchanted Forest, Al-Lisa’s artwork, in the upstairs gallery for the month of June. The opening is held this Thursday, June 7th. To learn more, contact us at the Community Arts Council of Williams Lake via email: email@example.com, or visit http://misswhitespider.com.
The Community Arts Council is a proud recipient of financial assistance from The BC Arts Council, The Province of British Columbia, the City of Williams Lake and the Cariboo Regional District via the Central Cariboo Arts and Culture Society.