Jasper artists showcased at community exhibit, This Canada

·3 min read

This Canada, the first ever open-entry art exhibition hosted by the Jasper Royal Canadian Legion and the Jasper Artists Guild (JAG) Nov. 4 and 5 at the Legion, was hailed a huge success.

There were 60-plus visitors and impressive sales of artwork.

Sue Henderson, Legion manager, and Christina Martin, JAG president, organized the exhibition that was a fundraiser for both organizations. Artwork by seven community artists and 12 JAG members was featured.

"We have so much talent in this town," Henderson said. "(Artists) do come out of the woodwork when we have events like this. The stuff that's made in this town is so impressive. From painting to music, this town has it all.

"The vision people see, and take and create art… it's drop dead gorgeous."

Martin said the whole purpose of This Canada was to celebrate all the cultural, historical aspects of Canada - anyone's interpretation.

She noted with the venue being held at the Legion, "There's been a beautiful crossing over of the Legion and JAG and the promotion on each site.”

There has been a lot of feedback from people about JAG and art in general, Martin said.

"The purpose of JAG is to promote visual fine arts in the community and the region,” she said. “There's been a momentum to get our work promoted throughout the community."

One of the participating artists was Shirley Leonardi, whose scenic paintings were featured. She's been a JAG member since the early 2000s and said she loves art.

"I did a lot of doodling over the years," she said, and added, "I loved working with a pencil as a youngster."

Leonardi said she's always had a passion for drawing and for the mountains.

She said, "It's just a way of relaxing. It's fun trying to make the three dimensional part work, so everything has shape and form. I tend to be more realistic."

Leonardi used lighter colours when she started painting, but moved on to bolder tones.

When she and her husband are in California in the winter, Leornardi works with a group of artists.

"That group helps me expand my repertoire," she said. "It's always nice to share your work with others."

Leonardi said she's grateful for Martin's motivating, positive energy.

Another artist, Michael Flisak, a painter and sculptor, helped get JAG off the ground in 2001.

"I pounded the pavement to get support from local businesses - awareness and financial support," he said. "It was important to me. I live and breathe it."

Flisak has artistic roots. His uncle in Poland is a well-known poster artist and he said his grandfather "could draw like the wind".

"When I was five he'd sit me on his knee and draw, for example, elephants, and I'd try to emulate his movements,” Flisak said.

Art is important, he said, because "it humanizes in a dehumanizing society”.

“One of the functions of art is to humanize technology,” Flisak said, “so we have that feeling part of ourselves and we have to be able to express our ideas freely - emotionally and intellectually."

Jennifer Ottaway's painting, Poppies say "Lest we Forget", was purchased by the Legion.

Exhibit attendees were asked to place votes for their favourite pieces of art, in the People's Choice Awards. First place was a tie between Pam Beaver’s Midnight Mantra, and Christina Martin’s Mother Magpie, Father Fir.

Runner-up was Pam Beaver’s Tangled Rosewood. Honourable favourites were Brenda Dew’s Snowy Owl, Derek Joyce’s Keeping Traditions and Claude Boocock’s Iconic Cavell.

The winner of the gift basket draw was Nancy Best from the Jasper Museum.

Joanne McQuarrie, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Jasper Fitzhugh