“Sometimes in the long, long winter, when wind tears the rain across my face, lumps of acrylic stream off the canvas, and sufficient working light disappears by 4:30 pm, I wonder about the sanity of working as a singular artist, ‘hanging in’ here after all these years. Yet, hope persists that the works of art that have been fashioned over this period of time as an artist/seeker in this challenging zone may be viewed as a distinct, valuable portrayal of the tensions experienced in this remote region.
As a visual artist, I have worked for many years in northern BC. Beginning from my time of instructing art at the College of New Caledonia in Prince George in 1978, I have struggled to locate my own work in relationship to this particular environment. Originally from the prairies, I worked as an ‘abstract’ painter influenced by formalist imagery and theory, evidenced in the work of regional artists like Otto Donald Rogers, William Pereudoff, Dorothy Knowles, Greg Hardy and many others.
Surrounded by the rugged wilderness of northern BC, first in central BC and then later along the west coast region of Terrace/Kitimat and Prince Rupert, the production of my work gradually shifted from pure abstract/non-objective to figurative landscape painting and then to semi-abstract images that integrate outer physical surfaces with social narrative, i.e.: collapsing economy and demographic shifts. The production itself also moved from inside the clean, warm studio out to the messy, sometimes uncomfortable rugged wilderness. This immersion and sometimes confrontation with the northwest wilderness, and at the same time with the economic and political challenges facing this region, has had a powerful impact on my sensibility, and that has compelled me to reflect on and evolve an art style evocative of this experience.
The subjects/themes have changed over the years. Originally, I sought open spaces that allowed vistas of vast distance and brightness. Over time, I became more comfortable with the darker, jungle-like density of bush and interior forms. Tentatively, I experimented with painting the architecture of totem poles, homes and churches in the First Nations villages of Kincolith, Kitkatla, Kitwancool, Kitwanga and Masset, communities where I was living and working.
In the last few years, following a move from Terrace to Prince Rupert , I seized the opportunity to paint scenes of the harbour: seaplanes, ocean freighters and fishing boats. The weathered wooden trollers, tugs and other kinds of boats have opened new vistas in which to explore not only colour, form and space contrasts, but to push into the arena of gut wrenching political and social tensions. In my paintings, these vessels become symbolic of the cycles of boom and bust, collapse of resource industries, and the impact of global economics.