It was almost like he was there.
While hundreds of people swarmed through the opening night exhibition of the Wayne King Retrospective at Touchstones on Friday evening, a man-sized plinth in the middle of the gallery proudly displayed a bronze bust of the late artist, who passed away last year.
“His eyes follow you when you come in here, and he’s kind of warm and lovely looking,” curator Arin Fay told the Star about the sculpture, which was created by Aimée Philibert of Who Knew Gallery & Culture Shop.
“The bust was actually the first piece that came in the building. Aimée conspired with her friend Wright Simmons to create a custom-made plinth that was exactly Wayne height.”
She said that gave viewers the sense that King was in the room with them during the event, which she described as “chaotic and beautiful” with “lots of smiles and lots of tears.”
Surrounding the King sculpture on all sides are woodcuts, paintings and sketches by King that have been donated for the duration of the show — it’s up until February —and in total they’ve successfully collected over 120 pieces from 40 different people.
And Fay was amazed by how many people came out of the woodwork during the curation process.
“The people who had connections to Wayne King don’t follow any predictable pattern, which is perfect,” said Fay.
“So when people came out to the show it wasn’t one specific demographic, it was people from all walks of life who had memories of Wayne or connections to him.”
Residents and friends of King remember him as an idiosyncratic and benevolent presence, routinely hanging out on Baker St. downtown. His close friend Dustin Cantwell has described him as having a unique ability to reach across societal boundaries.
“He could basically elevate anybody’s consciousness, from a skate punk to a single mother to an elder. He was able to shift a person’s thoughts from the mundane to the spiritual. That was his amazing gift to people of this area was raising people’s consciousness.”
Another one of his close friends, Karla Whitaker, considered King a mentor.
“He really was a yogi; he almost wasn’t human. He was someone we all went to—he slowed our lives down and showed us the beauty and the colour, the light and the love. He was the hermit in the woods who gave us all the things we couldn’t get ourselves.”
And his work continues to influence people. One person moved by the exhibit was Nelson city councillor Anna Purcell.
“This exhibit made me get all misty. I’ve never seen such irrepressible joy and community spirit in one place, all expressed in paint,” she posted online.
Fay believes the show is perfect for the winter months.
“I’m already feeling it, that kind of exhaustion that comes this time of year, but when you come in here there’s so much colour and creative chaos it wakes you up and makes you happy.”
She believes King’s legacy will endure.
“I think he’s still here in all sorts of different ways.”