Reviews & Interviews
I am very pleased when my work affects people enough to want to write or read about it. Here is a selection of reviews and interviews about my work.
Written by Kim Fahner, Former Poet Laureate in Sudbury, Ontario
Excerpts from Review of the exhibit “Sudbury Women in Art” at the Art Gallery of Sudbury & Mother’s Day 2018
There are so many beautiful pieces on the walls of Gallery 2. I’m going to list all of the women here, as they’re mentioned in the book that accompanies the exhibition. They include: Adrienne Assinewai, Rachelle Bergeron (those photos!) Leesa Bringas (a woman who, like me, seems torn between Sudbury and Windsor), Kathy Browning (her Irish photos always pull at me), Rose Cardinal (whose tattooing artistry is well respected in the North), Joan Chivot, Danielle Daniel (whose work I have long loved, and whose beautiful downtown mural just off Durham Street, titled “Dear Sudbury,” is fairly famous in town), Laura-Leigh Gillard (those butterflies, birds, and moths are just a bit mystical), Sarah King Gold (who is the mastermind behind the gorgeous mosaic mural down on Elgin Street, just opposite the tracks), Tennille Heinonen, Stacy Lalonde (more photos!), Monique Legault (who painted one of my poems last year and who is now lobbying for local artists to create a mural on the Elgin Street Underpass), Rosie Maddock (whose typewriter skirt is one of my favourite pieces of clothing), Kim McKibbon, Rae Miranda (whose work in textiles is fabulous), Neli Nenkova (who is most well known for the brilliant mural on the Kingsway), Ruth Reid (fabulous watercolourist, but also a former voice at CBC Sudbury), Carole Rodrigue, Sydney Rose (!), Trish Stenabaugh (who is one of my best friends and whose work has graced the covers of the last two books of poems I’ve published), Colette Theriault, Heather Topp (those paper-mache goddesses and so many of her feisty and spirited canvases), Dineen Worth, and Chantel Abdel-Nour (a co-editor of the book that goes along with the exhibit), Johanna Westby (another co-editor of the book!). Whew. That’s quite a list.
Each and every piece was beautiful, when I looked at them today, but there were a few that stood out, so I’ll mention them. As I’ve already said, I love Heather Topp’s work. I find her whimsical and organic style, especially in terms of her life-sized paper-mache women, always transfixes me. Sydney Rose’s piece, “The Joy of Sex and Indoor Gardening,” made me laugh out loud: who knew that a series of houseplants might be so quirkily placed. I loved that one. Then there’s Trish Stenabaugh’s work. I’m beyond a fan of Trish’s work. I began teaching at the same time as Trish and she’s one of my dearest friends. I have, just let me count here, um, four of her paintings in my little red brick house. Her use of colour and form always gets to me, in the best possible of ways. Next, you can’t have an exhibit like this without the stunning work created by Danielle Daniel. She’s up for Emerging Artist in this year’s Mayor’s Celebration of the Arts on June 6th. She’s a triple or maybe even a quadruple threat: a visual artist, a singer and ukulele player, and a brilliant writer. The piece up in the gallery, “Water Warrior,” made me think of how important it is for all of us to mind our waterways. The image of the woman with sad eyes made me nod in agreement: you can’t live in the north, and you can’t have enjoyed swimming or canoeing or fishing or hiking, without knowing that the water is so dearly in need of our advocacy and protection. Then there’s Leesa Bringas, someone I admire a great deal. A ‘transplant’ from Windsor, Leesa is a relatively new spark in the community, and almost always behind some of the most brilliant artistic initiatives here in town. Her cyanotype photography is just so beautiful, and the piece up at the gallery makes you sort of want to just walk right into that deep blue colour. (Or maybe that’s just me…it could just be me…)
I really loved Johanna Westby’s piece, “Wading in the Evening.” It is, truly, I think, so evocative of what a northern woman is all about. If you grew up here, you probably learned to swim in a lake. I did. The notion of skinny dipping in a northern lake, too, isn’t farfetched at all. I loved this piece because of the ‘above and below’ of the surface of the water. Throughout it all, the image of a naked woman, seen from behind. Above the water, the trees our region is famous for, and underneath, a couple of stylized blue fish and a mess of reeds. (I still call those ‘weeds’ or ‘seaweed’ when I go swimming. There’s not a summer when I don’t think I feel fish brush by my legs when I’m swimming, even though it’s likely just a mucky lake bottom with weeds!) Anyway, Westby’s a featured artist at the gallery right now, so you can buy some of her beautiful notecards and there are some originals on display at the main desk.
Laura-Leigh Gillard is well known here in Sudbury. She does those amazing acrylic and ink pieces of birds and butterflies and moths. They are stunning to see and you know right away, when you see a Gillard piece, that that’s who made it! Her two pieces, “Patience, Darling” and “Cataclysmic Catalyst” are simply stunning. The colours, like those used in Daniel and Westby’s pieces, are jewel toned and bold. Love it. Further on down the gallery is the work of Rosie Maddock. Originally from England, Rosie lives here now and is fairly famous for her pillows, tote bags, and (yes! thank God!) quirky typewriter skirts (which are perfect for writer women like me)! Her two pieces are so touching, from her ‘Mum Makes History’ series. In one piece, the artwork is accompanied by a pair of tiny white leather shoes and some old photos of a little girl. In another, there is a tiny antique stuffed bear and a multi-media piece that is too beautiful to even begin to explain with words. Then, there’s Rose Cardinal. She’s on my list because I still need to get two little barn swallow tattoos from her, in memory of my parents, but I’m still a coward in that department. In any case, two of the most striking pieces here are photos of her “In Memory of Pierre,” which is a tattoo of a miner’s face, as a memorial. Then there’s the stunning, “Underwater Parenting,” with the image of a mermaid breastfeeding a baby mermaid. What?! How fantastic is that!?
These are the pieces that struck me most, but all of these women artists are producing unbelievably beautiful and thought provoking work.
Written by Megan Shikaze, Environmental Studies and Concurrent Education student at Laurentian University
This past weekend, myself and a few of my friends had the chance to attend the art exhibit Wild by Johanna Westby. The exhibition was located at Artists on Elgin, a small shop in downtown Sudbury that features arts and crafts made by local artists. Wild featured various works, each painted onto a wooden board instead of a canvas. The paintings were breathtaking and all were unique in their own way. In the words of the artist, “Wild is a selection of works which connect to each other through colour, to express the familiarity of northern Ontario.”
The works depicted various elements of nature, including trees, lakes, and even animals, with each painting using colour schemes so harmonious you could stare at them for hours and feel at peace. Even with my extremely limited knowledge of art, I found the colours that she used were unique, and not something you expect of art that depicts nature. However, the lines that Westby used and the way different shades of the same colour were used gave the paintings depth and brought them to life in a way that
one would not expect.
Many of the paintings looked at nature in a ecocentric perspective, where nature exists peacefully and all aspects of the environment are respected for simply existing. These paintings perfectly captured the balance of the ecosystem. When I saw them, I felt as though I was observing nature like I was a part of it. A few of the other paintings showed signs of human involvement, with images of canoes and campsites. These paintings gave off more of an anthropocentric perspective, where the environment
becomes a resource to humans. This was prominent in one of my favourite paintings from the exhibit. It showed a beautiful landscape of a lake and surrounding forest, using
blues and greens to capture the beauty of nature. However, in one corner, you can see a vibrant red canoe. This drastic change in colour led us to see human involvement in the beautiful landscape as an interruption in the previously balanced green and blue tones of the painting.
Overall, I believe that the exhibit captured elements of nature perfectly and presented the idea of both biocentric and anthropocentric perspectives effectively. Personally, I loved all of the art that we were able to see, and would strongly recommend checking out the works of Johanna Westby, it is definitely worth the time.
Interview for Wild Northener
What quotation resonates with you most as an artist?
“If I could say it in words, there would be no reason to paint” - Edward Hopper. The expressiveness of painting or drawing, as well as it’s resonance is far more persuasive in creating a connection with the world, than my verbal or written explanation of why I create could ever be.
What inspires you to create?
I find painting and drawing very enjoyable and satisfying, however, it is not enjoyment alone which drives me to create. There is a requirement... a NEED to create. I have a need to express movement, to play with colour, and to fill my visual world with vibrance. For a short time in my life several years ago, I took a break from art - this created an emptiness in me, almost as there was a starvation of creativity. The craving of need for generation of art was thankfully strong, and I have since ensured that creating art is a high priority for me. I am inspired by the world around me, art that I admire, and the local environment. I am driven by the excitement of creating something new, that has never been seen before, but is yet somehow familiar.
How does living in the north impact your work?
I feel passionately connected to the north - both the landscape and the culture. I am originally from Elliot Lake, and have made Sudbury my home. My love of nature is illustrated in my work, through distinctly northern Ontario elements and animals, and I am influenced by talented local artists and beauty of the landscape. I have written two children’s books “The Day I Went Fishing on Lake Wanapitei” and “Fire in the Forest” which focus specifically on conservation in northern Ontario. I am very proud to call the north my home, and I am grateful to be able to contribute to our community’s culture.
Where do you create?
My actual work is created in studio and at home (when I am able to, if not running after my little children). But the making of art, as a whole process, is not limited to a studio or tangible space. As an artist, I am constantly inspired by the world around me, and work infinitely in my head to assess colour, compose elements, assess movement. To me, illustration is an unlimited process - it is a lifestyle.
What is your favourite thing about this space?
My studio space is cluttered, but it’s mine. The best thing about my space is that I have complete control over it, which means I have total creative license to create what I want, how I want. That may sound like a relatively self-centered answer, but I think in order to be able to make things with the best effectiveness, one has to be comfortable and confident in one’s space. My space lets me be free to express myself and produce work about which I feel satisfied.
What has been the biggest challenge you have faced as an artist?
My biggest challenge is always has been my sense of confidence. Worry about how your work is perceived, and self-doubt can create a block in productivity, but I have worked to channel these issues into the understanding that I have room to grow and evolve in my work, and to allow that worry to foster exploration into areas and techniques that are totally unexpected.
What does success mean to you?
I think the term “success” is a strange concept in art. It suggests there is some kind of mark to reach, or finish line to cross which defines an artists’ capability. While I believe there are certainly goals to achieve, I feel that creating a finite definition of success is difficult, as that bar changes constantly. I feel absolutely thrilled to have contributed to the community through my work in the past few years (through murals, illustration, and children’s books), and I look forward to new exciting projects and working to create a positive visual impact in the community.