Issue #7 | Fall/Winter 2006

Space For It All

I had the incredible opportunity this summer to meet with a number of different Peace Country artists and to read at some length about Alberta art. I started off sceptical that there was such a thing as a distinctive art of this place. Other regions in this country have long-established art traditions. Central Canada has the Group of Seven. The Atlantic Provinces have “Maritime Realism” – Christopher Pratt, Mary Pratt, Alex Colville, and the like. Coastal British Columbia has Emily Carr, and a strong tradition of West Coast Aboriginal Art. The Arctic has its Inuit carvers and printmakers. But the Peace Country?

What I became convinced of was only this: that the art of this place is diverse. Perhaps because we don’t have the depth of tradition that other parts of the country have, we have the freedom of a blank palette, so to speak. Up here, in “the real hinterland” (as Mary-Beth Laviolette calls it in An Alberta Art Chronicle), an artist can hear him or herself think.

Some of the art I’ve seen is intimately rooted to this place – think of Peter von Tiesenhausen’s work. Other artists have made art that responds to this place – think of Sarah Alford – or its traditions. Think of Vicki Hotte and Holly Crichton, making art about the ranching way of life; or Carmen Hakstaad and Brenda Strom making art about hockey. Many others depict this place in their art – think of the landscapes of Jim Stokes, Robert Guest, and many others. And then there are those of us whose art doesn’t seem to have much to do with the Peace Country at all. And that’s okay too.

Is there a distinctive Peace Country art style? I don’t think so. But maybe that’s the point. I think when you live here with the wide open lands and skies, you develop a limitless sense of what’s possible. In the words of Sarah Alford: “I think that the world is so big that there’s room for everything. I think there’s room for the incredible, challenging, difficult work that people make, and I think there’s room for the extremely beautiful. There’s space for it all.”

Here at Art of the Peace, I am the new Editor! I am hoping to start a “Letters to the Editor” column, but first, I need to hear from you! Let me know what you like (or don’t like) about the magazine, and what you’d like to see more of. Respond to any of the articles, or send me news of what’s happening in your community, in the area of visual arts. You can contact me at art@artofthepeace.ca .

Wendy Stefansson
Editor


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