To say Stella Walker is a multi-disciplinary artist is an understatement. And understatement is not her style.
Yes, her beautiful figurative and landscape paintings are introspective and dreamlike. She’s a classically trained singer who sings in multiple languages, has specialized in Yiddish art songs, and now writes her own music.
But that’s just the beginning. As an actor and singer, Stella Walker can be a ham.
“Life is a mixture of things, so why wouldn’t art be a mixture of things?” says Walker. “It has its tragic and comic elements.”
A perfect example is her new YouTube music video ‘Under the B – Busted.’ It’s a campy, operatic-style performance about her failure to win at bingo. You can see it here.
The video is a collaboration featuring her friends’ talents — on, off and behind the camera — including Stephen Granger’s work. He shot, directed and edited it.
He normally does corporate work, but lent his skills to this production after Walker performed her bingo song to him in a café. They storyboarded together, and shot the video in four hours at the OWL’s Club on Dovercourt Road. Walker provided additional video elements, including drawings of imagined winnings, like a Winnebago.
Central to the video is a dress made out of 300 bingo cards, all paper, created by Alison Conway — a costume designer whose credits include the Stratford Festival.
“Paper is so fragile, it would be easy for the dress to be a disaster,” recalls Conway.
She wanted the bingo cards to move, and not appear like armour. As she researched solutions, Conway learned of a costume made out of feathers in The Magic Flute (read about that very costume in Backstage at the Opera: The Art of Costumes).
“If you can make feathers float, you can make bingo cards float,” she says.
With fittings and adjustments, the dress took a month to finish. Conway was pleased, especially with Walker’s reaction.
“Bringing someone’s vision to fruition is very satisfying,” says Conway.
After performing ‘Under the B — Busted’ in the dress on stage, Walker hoped to give her friend’s work permanence. Hence the music video, a way to preserve it visually.
But what prompted Walker to want a bingo dress in the first place?
Cree class, Walker explains. Naturally.
Walker doesn’t just sing in multiple languages, she’s also multilingual. She’s studied the Cree language in Vancouver, Saskatoon and now at the Native Canadian Centre of Toronto.
One day, she bought a $3.99 bingo game as a gift for her Cree teacher, Susan Hunter. She thought it would be a fun way to learn Cree numbers from 1 to 75. It was so popular, it turned into a monthly bingo game in class.
She was flooded with inspiration — for the bingo dress, and for an interactive performance in which Susan Hunter would call out the numbers 1 to 75 in Cree for the audience, playing bingo. All that led to the music video, which features Hunter as caller, and many of Walker’s friends, including classmates, playing bingo.
“They were all volunteers,” notes Granger. “We had a lot of fun.”
While Walker’s dreams in the video are all fantasy, she really does want to travel. She’s developing a theatrical production — Stellavision: The 3D World of Stella Walker — and plans to tour it someday.
Part of the cost of the production is a $714.95 license fee for a composer. She’s selling one of her acrylic paintings for exactly that amount.
The painting in question is of a bingo card … of course.
For more information on Stella Walker and her work, go to her website at stellawalker.com