Earlier this year I launched my retrospective exhibition, Canadianisms: A Half Decade Inspired by Canada in Edmonton, Alberta. In just two weeks this show opens in Calgary, at the Okotoks Art Gallery. It has been a celebratory year for Canada and for my artworks. Come and join the celebration at the opening reception June 9th, 2017.
This is a big year for Canada and a big year for my art career. With one solo exhibition behind me and another on the horizon, I am preparing to share my stories of Canada on canvas hanging in the art galleries and in person. What inspires the art? What am I trying to convey with my paintings? Here I will share the intent behind a few of my most celebrated pieces, and how I feel about the job of the artist and that of the viewer.
Behind the Painting: Is Canada the Goalie of The World? During the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games the city was punctuated by Canadian stereotype and the air thick with smells of maple syrup pride. I came home from the experience with visions of red, maple leaves and hockey. All these experiences zipping across my temporal lobe. I have always loved the works of American painter, Georgia O' Keeffe. She was known for painting animal skulls on the landscape and in 1931 created a painting featuring a cows skull on a blanket of red, white and blue. The piece represented the enduring American spirit. I began to think about this painting and it began to inspire my own comment on my country, referencing the enduring Canadian spirit. I came to rest on the image of a hockey goalie mask on the iconic Canadian flag. To me, the goalie mask speaks of us standing guard, it is a symbol of resilience and protection. In most cases a masked human, taking the shots and not shooting back, the goalie plays the role of protector and watcher, much like a mother grizzly over her cubs. This painting was the beginning of this body of work, my 'Canadianisms', and set me on a journey of realizing the Canadian spirit on canvas.
Behind the Painting: An #ICONICCANUCK
#ICONICCANUCK was the title of my first exhibition of these paintings, as my 'Canadianisms' referenced so many icons of Canada, including the landscape and wildlife of the country. The first human icon I painted was, Shania Twain, a celebrated Canadian singer and songwriter and best-selling female country music artist of all time. 'Saint Kanata' references the strong and resilient Canadian spirit and the composition for the piece was inspired by the work of famous polish Art Deco painter, Tamara De Lempicka. Lempicka was the first woman artist to be a 'glamour' star.
Behind The Painting: With Our Hearts On Our Sleeves
'Hearts On Our Sleeves' has many influences, but I will begin with the initial intent. When I began thinking about creating this new self-portrait I had an image in my mind, that of 'Rosie The Riveter'. An iconic war-time poster image, the image did not really hit it's full stride until it inspired a social movement that increased the number of women in the workforce, and became a symbol of feminism. I wanted to paint a self-portrait for all, but also for Canadian women from all walks and in all professions. As I began painting I came to focus on the eyes and began to see the Mona Lisa on my subliminal horizon, a horizon influenced by the landscapes of Lawren Harris with muted tones and almost abstract forms. The heart on the sleeve quite literal in it's placement and meaning. As with all art, ultimately what you see is based on your experience, so even though I began with an intent, it becomes your place now to bring your story to the finished piece.
During this half-decade I have found inspiration across the country and through the eyes and minds of the people I have connected with on my travels. We have talked about Canada, about what we love and the future of our great country, of reconciliation, of acceptance, of equality and of protecting the environment. We have talked about what we create and why we create. We have talked about ideas for future collaborations. On each journey I write daily, record video, and photos. Coming home each time to Vancouver Island filled with new ideas about Canada. From the most rural to the grandest; I am cultivating a visual language that is distinctly Canadian. See you in Okotoks!