Preserves: Prepared for Future Use

Preserves: Prepared for Future Use

Kelowna Art Gallery Exhibition

This week I delivered a painting to the Kelowna Art Gallery for a show guest curated by the artist Maggie Shirley.

The Preserves exhibition will run from November 7th to December 6th, 2015 with the opening on Friday evening November 6th. I was very pleased to have the opportunity to participate this project!

A Fine Balance

Oil Painting on Cradleboard 48” x 24” 2015
by Susan Burnham Neilson

Woodhaven Regional Park is a unique treasure in Kelowna, inherited thanks to the people whose efforts contributed to its preservation. Their enthusiasm inspired me to learn about the history and spend time watching life in the quiet of the forest. There is a fragile balance between complex and simple, chaos and order, micro and macro. Wild survivors, like the tiny owlets born here this summer, need protected spaces for their homes.

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The call to artists was sent out in late July and people had until August 25th to submit proposals. The idea appealed to me, so I started working on sketches and ideas when I heard about it.

They were looking for work sharing stories of our Kelowna heritage, and so I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to make a new piece about the very unique conservation area right next door. I am very privileged to live by Woodhaven Regional Park. My interest in working on this painting was to get to know more about the history and ecology of this place and the ideas of the people who have protected it.

In my sketchbook, I started with the idea of a spiral, considering a “Syilx Spiral” I saw when I was reading about Okanagan First Peoples. The spiral includes minerals, plants, animals and humans. I turned it and opened it up as a tall vertical spiral instead of the 2-D circle view from the top. I made a vertical geometric pattern spaced out in a pattern using a few numbers from the Fibonacci sequence, just because it seemed symbolic somehow. I cut up sticky notes into little pieces and put them in the sketchbook as a series of counterbalanced rectangular shapes like pages for the stories I would later tell or the close-up “moments” I might portray. These were intended to contrast with the more flowing energy of the background cedars, inspired by Emily Carr, suggesting the past, as well as potential for the future.

One day my neighbour pointed out the little owlets in a tree by my studio.   I wrote an earlier blog post about this when it happened.

In the framed sections I wanted close-up nature studies to draw people in for a closer look, and to be something like scientific field notes. I was very fortunate that these same neighbours had managed to capture a photograph of the little birds. The owlets in the photo looked just as I remembered, all huddled together looking at us with their curious yellow eyes. Leah generously sent me a copy of her photo to help as a reference to understand them. I usually like to work from life or actual 3-D sources if possible when including anything figurative in paintings or drawings, but I wasn’t going to get another look at these birds this summer. You can hear them at night but they keep very well hidden from view most of the time.

The only way I could get another chance to see the appearance of those uniquely individual little faces again was with the help of photography. I am so glad someone thought to grab a camera. I never seem to have one with me at the right time.

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