Art. You can find it everywhere, but nowhere more than on Vancouver Island. Nature makes its own art. You can find it in the rhythm of the incoming surf, the petal patterns of vegetation or in a slice of tree trunk.
In addition to the art found in Nature, artists make their mark on walls as murals and graffiti – popularized in WW II by soldiers who left their calling cards to indicate that they were there… Over There.
Walking the beach. I see the works of man. Here, a feather stuck in a stone approximates a pen and inkwell.
Over there, pebbles, sticks and shells have been arranged in a pleasing pattern. In the sand, two names connected by an arrow and a heart. And on a path, someone (apparently an Australian tourist) has drawn an aboriginal figure. And on that pole, not a carved First Nations totem which is a traditional work of art, but hundreds of locks – again left by tourists who left their calling cards.
Sculptured pieces, totem carvings and handmade native canoes are to be found across the island. In addition, art can be found in museums and private collections. When Mark and I first moved full-time to London, I was surprised going into a bookstore. Scanning the bestselling books on display, I was taken back: I didn’t recognize any of the authors! I guess I had assumed that because we North Americans and the Brits spoke , the same language, we would be reading the same books. Foolish, I know, but… I knew the classics, of course, , but my total ignorance of popular British writers had me shame-faced.
Murals abound on the island, but for a small town, Chemainus takes the cake. The artists’ styles vary, but the quality is always high.
Staying at James Bay Inn in Victoria, I saw numerous paintings by Emily Carr. Wonderful paintings! But who the heck was Emily Carr? Again, I was caught in a cultural wasteland. When I asked the hotel staff, they were shocked. Emily Carr? Another ignorant American! She doesn’t know Emily Carr!!
Back in Victoria (thankfully back to Internet connectivity) I did a bit of research. Silly me. Emily Carr (1871-1945) is a “Canadian icon” who dragged reluctant natives kicking and screaming into the world of Modernist and Post-Impressionist art. Her work was not well received.
Born in Victoria, Carr began her art studies at the San Francisco Art Institute in 1890. She went on to join an artist colony in St. Ives, Cornwall, England in 1905, and between 1910 and 1912 she studied in Paris before returning to Vancouver Island where her shocking color palette was initially dismissed.
I love her work. Carr wrote: “I glory in our wonderful west and I hope to leave behind me some of the relics of its first primitive greatness.” Carr does that so well.
Carr’s use of greens perfectly captures rainforest grandeur and forest density. Scrolling through the Internet in search of Emily Carr, I came across a site called kinderart, and yes, you too can paint trees in Emily’s style! Take a look at https://kinderart.com/art-lessons/painting/emily-carrs-trees/
If you shut your eyes to clear-cut logging in the forest primeval and focus on the vast remains, you can still feel the primitive.
Visit soon before the trees, through climate change or logging, are a thing of the past.