I strive for the days when can wake up at my own will, turn on the coffee grinder, relish in the sweet aromas of the beans being pulverized, crank some tunes, and set out to work in my “studio”. I am driven by a passion to paint and create, one that I can largely attribute to Dawn Knight. She was my grade 12 art teacher and exposed me to the first experience I really had with art. Dawn was different; always had a streak of blue, pink, or some other bright colour in her hair that just screamed creativity. Dawn would get us to think outside the box and to challenge ourselves with new mediums, new ideas and critiques. She let us listen to music; a rarity in school. I think that’s what really got me. There was, and still is, something so powerful about listening to music and creating a visual piece at the same time. She had us watching videos of non-traditional work, playing with challenging concepts, and collaborating with each other to broaden our artistic lens. I remember thinking “if this is art, this is something I want to be involved in.”
My training is not in art, I am a cell biology and genetics major by education and a Permitting Officer at FRO by employment, but these backgrounds give me some diversity to pull in to my pieces. I see an awkward sense of beauty in the gear grinding work of the mine and an uncanny parallel between the inner workings of our biological beings and the grandeur of the external world we thrive in. I find myself often jotting down ideas for paintings from my encounters at work or trying to depict the visual workings of my neurological thought process as I am stumped with a question. It’s these experiences that feed into my work and my creative process.
Moving to Fernie in 2007 allowed me to take my artistic passion and run with it. I started working a lot with Plasticine and spray paint. The Plasticine gave texture to the piece, but I soon wanted to start creating depth without using that physical medium. I wanted to play with depth on a flat surface, to make something from something that is not. Acrylics gave me that chance to play. And mess up. And play again. I love the versatility of acrylic; I can create the bold strong lines that oil allows and also emulate the softness and airiness of watercolour. It’s the combination of these two feelings that speaks loudly to me, allowing me to pair some of those opposing feelings and expressions. As of late, I have been experimenting with painting animals on backgrounds on which they don’t seem to truly belong. I like to try to make the image fit superficially, but at the same time, the animals appear to be somewhat out of place. It challenges the perception of belonging.
Fernie, however, is undeniably a place where art belongs. The community here has an incontestable vibration of art, a collective group of talented creators. I joined the Arts Station as a volunteer and member in 2007. This opened up a whole new world of experiences and gave me the chance to meet some wonderful people. I held my first solo show at the Arts Station in June of 2013, which really lit the fire for more. As a new member of the Fernie Arts Co-op, with another show generously hosted by Sue Bawden at the Fernie Wellness Centre and Healing Hollow, and as part of the Out of the Box Dumpster Beautification Project (2014-15) the Behind the Scene exhibition (2015) and the Body Art Competitions (2014-15), I see the diversity that Fernie is creating with the arts. Fernie has changed, even in the short time I have been here, or maybe I’m just starting to realize the potential the town has to offer and it continues to impress me. My teacher, Dawn Knight was a big inspiration for me, but the list of people and places that have joined her in inspiring me continues to grow. I can’t begin to express how powerful this is and how thankful I am for such a wonderful community to create in.