New art series will focus on Edmonton's heritage homes

·3 min read

An Edmonton artist is turning her appreciation for unique old homes into a pandemic-inspired project.

When COVID-19 led to closures of businesses in March, Aeris Osborne started walking through mature neighbourhoods, which inspired her new art project.

She'll be working on the series YEG old houses over the next year, which includes creating 12 paintings of Edmonton homes based in Old Strathcona, Alberta Avenue, Glenora, Westmount and Highlands neighbourhoods.

"I just love walking in the mature neighbourhoods and I just enjoy everything. I think it's because of where I come from," Osborne said.

She grew up in Hong Kong, where high rise condo buildings and skyscrapers tower over the city. Single unit homes are more of a rarity there, Osborne said. When she walked through the Highlands neighbourhood in the early spring, the unique details of the homes she came across stopped her in her tracks and led her to taking photos. She was struck by the creativity and the influence of different architecture styles ranging from Victorian to Scottish and Dutch influences. She started to rough sketch and paint the homes on canvas based on her photos. "It started with the Victorian Highlands houses, and then I started a whole series," she said.

Scott Neufeld/CBC
Scott Neufeld/CBC

Osborne's style is described as bold impressionist. Many of the details of the home are painted as they look, but the landscape details and the skies are exaggerated and expressive.

"I capture the soul of the architecture and then it's interpreted by my own feelings," she said. In September, she was announced as Arts Habitat Edmonton's newest studio resident, which includes a year of free studio space in the historic McLuhan House.

Osborne also researches the history of the homes as well.

"I just wanted to show that the houses can tell their own stories, from the former owner to the new owner, it changes," she said.

Scott Neufeld/CBC
Scott Neufeld/CBC

Susan Whitford lives about 10 blocks from Osborne's current studio. Over a month ago, she had heard that the artist had painted her home, and bought it. The home is 20 years old, which not as old as many of the other houses Osborne will be painting. Whitford likes the version created by the impressionist.

"We'll have this painting of our new house that's kind of like someone's interpretation of what our house looks like to them," she said.

Whitford can relate to Osborne's appreciation for the homes and neighbourhoods of Edmonton, which has been a result of getting outside more during the pandemic.

"We're going on all these river valley walks to these areas we didn't even know existed, even though we lived here most of our lives," Whitford said.

"So it's good it's good to see someone's vision on something that those of us that live in these historic neighbourhoods. That's why we stay here. That's why we don't move far away."

An exhibit of YEG old houses is expected to be on display when Osborne finishes her Arts Habitat Residency.