Quesnel Art Gallery: Mirror, mirror, on the wall

by AryanArtnews
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Quesnel Art Gallery: Mirror, mirror, on the wall

When you see Brenda Gardiner’s art, you inevitably see yourself.

Many of the pieces now on display at the Quesnel Art Gallery are stylized mirrors. But you might also be surprised at the reflections you can discover in the other forms of art she uses.

This exhibition also features her watercolor work.

“Brenda began painting with watercolors five years ago, inspired and mentored by her good friend Leah Seabrook,” said Marguerite Hall, a gallery spokeswoman. “She admits she gets lost in the medium and often finds that when she ‘comes back’, hours have passed and there are 30 paintings drying on the floor around her. Painting in watercolor calms and focuses her, allowing her to produce ethereal, sometimes whimsical treescapes.”

In a detailed interview filmed for the Quesnel Arts Council, Gardiner explained that in an introductory class she took with Seabrook, she found she understood the genre, and Seabrook was immediately receptive.

“As soon as I put the brush to the paper and saw what the water could do, it was ‘holy crow, this is amazing.’ I still honor her in my work,” Gardiner said. Seabrook passed away in 2020.

The focus of Gardiner’s watercolor work, for this show, is trees and specifically those left behind in the wake of wildfires.

“I’m inspired by the fires that happened, and the devastation, so I try to capture the beauty in the trees,” Gardiner said. “I very rarely paint a black or a brown tree.” One of her favorite subthemes is what she calls “spirit tree” images. “There will be things that people see that I don’t see. It’s a medium that allows that conversation,” she said.

Originally from Smithers, Gardiner traces her roots to the Small Frog tribe of the Witset First Nation. Her artistic routes are all over the creative map, and sometimes specifically indigenous art from her ancestors (drums, feathers, etc.), and sometimes European classical imagery, or abstract or found art.

It is this latter school of thought that permeates the other side of the gallery works in this show.

“In contrast to her watercolors are her mirrors,” Hall said. “These are bold, bright and vivid masterpieces. Constructed from an eclectic collection of objects found by Brenda in a variety of interesting locations across Western Canada, these works of art capture your attention and draw you in. Just when you think you’ve seen all of creation, you find another hidden treasure. “

“I’m the queen of thrift store shopping,” Gardiner said. “The dump boutique, as I call it, up by the dump, oh my, that’s the treasure. I can probably pump out five more mirrors when I leave the house. That’s how much stuff I collected.”

It’s a drastic change to have those mirrors and watercolors out of the house and out in public. Gardiner said the pandemic has effectively slammed the door on art sales and certainly on exhibitions. She can finally show the world what she has been doing with her creative time, during the lockdown period and beyond.

The exhibition opened on January 18th with a reception at the gallery, and will now be open for viewing until February 10th. Titled Another Brenda Lee Production, it can be viewed during regular gallery hours, Tuesday through Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every day.


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