Nearly everyone likes their personal spaces to be ascetically pleasing. People use vases, figurines, photos and paintings to make their home or office a more enjoyable place to spend their time. The Town of Gander is no different, however they have chosen a more local way to add some culture and colour to its space.
Since 2007, when the Town of Gander's art procurement program was launched, local artists have been able to submit their work to the town for consideration, and a panel of three judges will pick a number of pieces to purchase with its 1,000 dollar budget. Submissions can be of a variety of mediums from paintings and photographs to glass, metal, and wooden sculptures. Artists must have lived in Gander for one year to be eligible.
This year's selections were “Edge of Forever” and “They Won't Be Home Tonight” by Terry Morrison, both prints from acrylic paintings; “Wild Daisies” by Jeanmarie Stuckless, which is an original oil painting on slate; and “Salvage” by Lily Jones, which is a print on canvas from an acrylic painting. Honourable mention was given to Cassandra Gallant for her portrait of Danny Williams, entitled “Pondering the Outports,” which was completed just days before Premier Williams announced his retirement. It was noted the Town would have loved to purchase this painting, but its budget would not allow it, as it was valued at more than the four winning submissions combined.
Mr. Morrison's piece “Edge of Forever” is a four panel painting depicting a lighthouse scene, the white lighthouse contrasting against the ominous dark purple evening sky, which gives the viewer the feeling of an impending storm. White waves lap against black, shiny rocks. Mr. Morrison said the painting began just as one panel but he felt like something was missing so he added the other panels until he felt it was complete. He worked on the painting over two years, and said the biggest challenge was matching the colours of the sky and rocks in each panel. Mr. Morrison's second painting “They Won't Be Home Tonight” is an extremely emotion-evoking piece, it shows a raging sea of large waves, and a dark sky. An empty wooden fishing dory sits teetering in the water, its former inhabitants presumably lost to the storm. There is a light source peaking out through the dark sky, barely illuminating the stark scene below.
“I think it represents who we are as Newfoundlanders, and not only that, but anyone who tries to make a living under dangerous circumstances,” said Mr. Morrison. “Things like this happen sometimes.”
Ms. Stuckless' piece “Wild Daises” show a collection of flowers in a bed of green, the bright, summery flowers and blue sky in the background contrasts with the dark grey slate canvas. The oil paint gives the work a texture that you can see, each blade of grass jumps out at the viewer as if it was living. She said flowers are one of her favourite things to paint.
Ms. Jones' painting “Salvage,” inspired by the town, shows a piece of land jutting out into the sea while two stark white saltbox houses contrast with the grey spring day feeling, which is accentuated by an iceberg drifting out to sea. All the plant life remains brown and the air looks heavy and damp. Ms. Jones said it took her about a year to complete her painting, she was working on it from a photograph, but actually took a visit to the town of Salvage to get more detail about the scene she was painting.
“I really like the mood,” she said. “It made me think of those raw spring days when everything is grey, after a rain.”
Apart from submitting the winning paintings this year, the three artists have more in common. They all get a great deal of inspiration from the landscapes and nature of Newfoundland.
“You don't have to go too far to get inspired here,” said Mr. Morrison.
All three began painting as adults, Mr. Morrison said he began about 10 years ago to prove to himself he couldn't paint and surprised himself with his abilities. Ms. Stuckless and Ms. Jones are good friends and began painting together about 20 years ago, after convincing a friend of theirs to begin teaching classes. All three artists also paint regularly in groups. Ms. Stuckless and Ms. Jones have painted together for the past two decades in Ms. Jones' kitchen, and Mr. Morrison paints with a group of four that he met in an art class at his office.
“It's really good to paint with a group because you can critique each other's work and learn much faster. I found it a really good atmosphere,” said Mr. Morrison.
“It would be really nice if we had a place in town for group painting where you had good lighting, like a room where someone could bring their materials and paint with other artists,” said Ms. Jones.
“A place where we could all go and exhibit our work would be great,” added Mr. Morrison.
The three artists are still fairly new to painting, it's the first time any of them have won awards for their work. Ms. Jones said she really enjoys the experimentation aspect of painting, and she and Ms. Stuckless are always creating new challenges for themselves.
“After Christmas, our challenge is going to be the human body,” she said. “The big thing is to always challenge and try something new when we were in classes it was very structured but now the canvas is ours.”
“You don't have to go too far to get inspired here.” Terry Morrison
While the Town currently displays its procured art in various places in the Town Hall, it is available to be rented by groups within the community to enhance functions and to give the artists more exposure. Kevin Watermen is the director of parks, recreation and tourism with the Town of Gander, and was the person who got the Town's art procurement program off the ground four years ago after seeing a similar program at work within the provincial government. He is also one of the judges.
“We have a lot of artists that come to town that might eventually move on, and their works are relevant from the time that they lived here in Gander,” he said. “There are a lot of people that have moved away that really contributed to the art community while they were here, so we want a way to preserve some of the art and tradition that has come out of Gander over the years, so that's why we do this.”
He said he is pleased with how the program has worked thus far, but he would like to see more funding allocated to the program in the future. He said they have been purchasing mostly two-dimensional artwork because things like sculptures and woodworking often cost more, and he would like to see broader representation of mediums within the program.
“I think after so many years now we need to revisit the intent of the program and get more of a broader spectrum on the art that's here in Gander,” he said.
Mr. Waterman also said he would like to see the Town set up a public gallery in the future to display their community art collection.
“We're certainly going to have to start looking for that space in 2011,” he said. “Right now we don't have a designated space for it so it's everywhere.”
All three of this year’s winners said they are pleased to have been selected.
“It's recognition that someone else likes what you're doing, it's a real boost for your morale,” said Mr. Morrison.
Ms. Jones added, “I think we're inspired to paint more. In Newfoundland I think we have a lot of talent, and it's really good to see a little competition. I think as Newfoundlanders we don't display out wears and talents as much as we should, and the talent is out there.”