When I think of bridging and art, different things come to me.
First, my dream is to bridge community to art.
I do this by running an approachable gallery with a diverse art collection. Also, I have been playing host to many people to paint nights in the gallery. This awakens their inner artists and enhancing their visions of the world. My work with the local school’s “Design Thinking in Mathematics” class has connected me to young adults which is remarkably entertaining.
Second, I think about my ability “not” to bridge one art piece to the next.
I love to experiment (play) with different media and styles. I have a hard time sticking to one medium or style for too long. I have come to terms with this. I want to do what I love and I love to be “all over the place” as an artist. I apologize right now (but not really) for my erratic, undisciplined and self-taught art.
See you at our art show April 12, 13 and 14 at Grace Westminster United Church.
Taking your paints and brushes to the street is a sure fire way to bridge your art with the community. I’m an enthusiastic plein air painter and urban sketcher. My paints, pens and sketchbooks travel with me everywhere I go. When I set up on the street, there’s always a connection with someone – a waiter, a tourist, a property owner, the neighborhood kids.
People are curious. They want to see what you’re doing and how you’re going about it. “Why is your door a different color? Why did you move that tree? Where’s the sign? Why are you painting their bistro, not ours? They want to share what they see with others. “Heh, Jimmy, come and look at this! I’m taking your photo to send to my art school daughter to encourage her to get herself out there! Can I take a photo of your sketch
to share with the owner?”
They give you glimpses into the place of art in their lives. “My mom or my uncle or my cousin paints. I used to do a little drawing myself, but I’m not very good. Have you ever heard of Van Gogh?” While sketching on the street, I’ve shared my supplies with an onlooker who I knew was seriously itching to paint with me. I’ve practiced speaking French with a group of children who gathered round while I sketched at Pont de Gard in the south of France. I’ve sold sketches to fellow travellers who were intrigued that I had captured our shared experience in paint on paper. You never know what’s going to happen next!
More often than not, people are in awe to see that you have artistic talent and are brave enough to exercise it in public! I like to think my courage helps them find theirs!
Painting in Tallin
Sketching in Traveste
Painting at Cannon Beach
Painting in Mexico
Bridges are for exploring, crossing, burning and describe beauty, relationships, struggles. They can represent choices and directions both wise and unwise and necessary. I have experienced bridges, both physical and contemplative in my art practice.
Over the years, I have selected bridges as a painting image and have sold paintings of the bridges that provide access to our beautiful Saskatchewan valleys, both in Saskatoon and elsewhere in the province. Bridges also provide viewing places for looking into water which has been another of my long term muses. In the Artists’ Workshop April 2019 show I will include a painting that originated on a lovely day last fall when I walked the trails at Wanuskewin Park, stood by a bridge at Opimihaw Creek, took photos for painting reference and reflected on the cultural significance of that particular bridge.
A big bridge in my career as an artist presented itself following a dramatic vision change several years ago. It was suddenly necessary for me to find new creative and physical bridges between the paint and the canvas. This uprooting resulted in a lot of experimentation in my application of paint and has remained a focus in my work.
When Artists’ Workshop selected Bridging as a theme for our annual spring show, I had been working on a series of pathways that started in the forest at my cabin last summer and finished in my studio over the winter. As a friend recently said, “A bridge is a path”.
We will look forward to seeing folks at our show April 12, 13.14 at Grace Westminster Church Hall. Enjoy the art and chat with the artists about the interesting paths they follow and the bridges they cross in the search for creative expression and beauty.
‘On a Dreamer’s Path All is Possible’
‘Life is a Maze’
A few ways I see bridging in my art practice are:
- Time and Place – Recently I have been focussed on a series of work called Prairie Perspectives that bridges time and place. Across the Saskatchewan landscape homesteads are deserted, granaries sit empty and elevators are rapidly disappearing. This exhibition explores what we see today and invites us to be curious about the many perspectives surrounding the history of this prairie architecture.
- Memories – As I talk to people who come to view my exhibitions I hear stories such as “I taught the grandchildren of the people who built that house” or “my Dad was a station master so that brings back a lot of memories”. Those conversations bridge my making of the art with the viewers’ response to it.
- Learning – Discover Watercolour Batik is an online class I created to help bridge the learning of other artists who want to learn about my process and how to work with wax and watercolour on Ginwahsi paper. (learn.paigemortensen.ca)
- Actual Bridges – And finally, bridges frequently appear in my work. Many bridges, especially the older ones are fascinating architectural structures.
One afternoon a few years ago the phone rang and a voice at the other end said “You don’t know me but I just wanted to tell you how much I’m enjoying one of your paintings.”. The man told me his name and where he was from. We’d never met. He didn’t own any of my artwork. He explained that he lived in Saskatchewan, a few hours drive away from Saskatoon, and that his wife was having surgery as we spoke. I had hung some of my art in Saskatoon’s City Hospital and he was calling from the pay phone located where the artwork hung. He was sitting there looking at it while he waited, while we talked, he told me. He said the piece reminded him of home and how much he and his wife love the peaceful qualities of where they had chosen to live. I had painted the scene because it had touched something in me. And it had, as he explained, touched something in him too. There’s no punchline to this story where the caller turns out to be someone famous or had made a generous purchase.
A bridge between the visual artist and the one appreciating the work, exists merely by the viewer appreciating it. Most times the people at either end of this bridge don’t meet in the middle in any direct way. Many eyes view a displayed work of art. Many people will walk away thinking about what the work reminded them of, or harbouring the emotion that the image instilled in them. The bridge exists even if the feeling invoked remains unexpressed. I’ll always remember the phone call.
It took me a while to see where the idea of bridging fit with my art. And then it came to me as I was working on a new painting, of a subject completely new to me. This subject presented itself to me because of new directions my life has been taking over the past year. A major life change presented an opportunity to realize something I’d often thought of, the chance to live back on the west coast. So I rented an apartment for a year to start with and have been going back and forth over the winter.
I grew up out there but have been away almost 50 years, so it has been a rediscovery of the old and the new. Seeing it from the viewpoint of art making is also new, and I have been inspired by the new/old landscape of the coast. Exploring new subjects which have caught my attention has renewed my imagination and exploration.
As part of these new changes, you will notice that I have also gone back to my original name of McGrath. So my way of seeing as a painter, a moving those visions to painting has been the bridge between my past life and the life I am now making for myself. The amazing support and love of my dear friends and family has made this transition possible and I am so grateful for them. So onward!
As a post script, the new subject I was working on is the painting here of the heron. I’ve not done any kind of animal or bird before, particularly in a landscape, and I have been quite pleased with my first attempt.
Marilyn’s work bridges the landscapes of Saskatchewan, from flowers in her back yard, to the alleyways of the city, to the boreal forest. The link between them are the reds and magentas that underpin much of Marilyn’s paintings. Marilyn sketches and takes photos to use as the foundation for her striking paintings.