September 22, 2021

Sask. blacksmith’s artwork exploring hashtags on the Prairie landscape

A self-taught blacksmith has created artwork exploring ‘hashtags’ as a means of connection and how the social media symbol relates to the Prairie landscape. 

Hashtags are used on social media to explore similar interests or locations. “Hashtags” is also the name of Jim Gerlinsky’s new art exhibit at the Hand Wave Gallery in Meacham, Sask., about 60 kilometres east of Saskatoon.

The Wilkie, Sask., artist was inspired about 20 years ago after a reviewer of his work referred to it as “profoundly Prairie.” That comment got him thinking about what profoundly Prairie means.

Gerlinsky said the Prairies can seem flat and boring, with nothing to see. 

“My work is the same way at first glance.… It’s plain, simple, it’s boring. But spend some time with it. Like, look at it just across the Prairie. It is subtle. There’s gentle flowing lines, there’s a texture,” Gerlinsky told Saskatchewan Weekend. “There’s a thousand different colours in one shade. It’s the Prairie.”

The artist began thinking about hashtags and how they relate to the Prairie landscape after the gallery owner at Hand Wave Gallery said the landscape was pretty and had hashtags on the grid.  

“The grid road is the Prairie landscape. It’s what we are,” Gerlinsky said. “We use hashtags and modern communication as a way of connecting. We use the grid roads as a way of connecting, and I never made the connection.” 

Saskatchewan Weekend10:48Hashtags: a modern message with an ancient art form

We use hashtags to stay connected on social media. One Saskatchewan blacksmith is using hashtags to connect people to his art. Jim Gerlinksy has a show on now at Meacham’s Hand Wave Gallery. He joins host Shauna Powers to talk about his ‘profoundly prairie’ style. 10:48

One of his hashtag series is called Etudes, with pieces that look light and airy. Gerlinsky said it’s actually simple to make those pieces look as though they’re going to take flight as when the iron is hot, it moves under the hammer with only an anvil. 

“All those pieces started off the same. They all started off as a piece of quarter inch thick, one inch wide, one foot long, which is why I call it the Etude series, because it’s all a study,” Gerlinsky said. “What different ways can they go together?”

The exhibit also includes iron thistles, iron Fleur-de-Lis and iron cattails. Gerlinsky said you can’t picture the Prairie landscape without cattails in the ditch alongside the grid roads. 

Jim Gerlinsky’s cat tail detail piece is one of many exhibited at the Hand Wave Gallery in Meacham, Sask. (Hand Wave Gallery/Website)

Gerlinsky said this show was different than his usual work. He said there were moments when he was concerned things weren’t going to go as planned and no one would check it out, but he knew the gallery owner believed in him. 

“When we’re unpacking the stuff … her face is, you know, just lighting up with joy at the pieces and I tell her, ‘I’m so happy to see this look on your face,'” he said. 

Gerlinsky said he hopes people see what they like in the forms. He mentioned one where he saw dancers and a friend saw Prairie rivers. 

“I just make it and hope somebody loves it enough to want to take it home with them,” he said. 

Hashtags is on display until Sept. 9 at the Hand Wave Gallery in Meacham. The gallery is open Friday through Monday from 1 p.m. until 6 p.m. CST, but you have to phone ahead to arrange a visit. There will also be a closing reception later this summer.

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