Three Peace River Artists
By Jody Farrell
Kelly Albin, Artist-ceramicist, Chetwynd, B.C.
Chetwynd artist Kelly Albin knows her works challenge those who may not have experienced the world as she has. The middle child of three girls whose dad worked for Bell Canada and travelled the world, Albin learned to appreciate a variety of colourful people and cultures at a very young age. But it’s the similarities among people she feels she speaks of in her paintings and mosaic works. “I remember even as a young child seeing unity in people, no matter what culture; whether it be Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Greece, Spain, or China,” Albin says. “We were quite fortunate.”
The Montreal native landed back in Canada after years of travel, and studied forestry in New Brunswick. Her first job offer following graduation in 1998 was in Chetwynd. She worked in forestry for a couple of years, and turned back to what she calls her first love, the arts. Her mosaics mimic the melange of culture and colour that influenced her life. “I use all kinds of things in making them,” Albin says. “They’re really a bunch of everything: found objects, jewellery, tiles…”
Her paintings, like those featured in her ‘Interrupted’ exhibition last year at Dawson Creek Gallery, also portray the influence of far away cultures, with their bold colours and movement. ‘Womanly Shake’, one of a triptych of paintings, hints at a looser, more laid-back culture where music is essential and part of everyday life.Albin accepts that while her upbringing makes her more adaptable to change, others’ life experiences foster a desire to see the familiar.
Some don’t know just how to take my art,” she says. “A lot of them, upon seeing it, say: ‘You aren’t from around here'”. Still, she likes Chetwynd, and has no plans to leave anytime soon.
Emily Mattson, Artist-Sculptor, Rolla, B.C.
Often in the world of artists, the support or material upon which the artwork is rendered is as important as the work. For some, Rolla, B.C. artist Emily Mattson’s work on cow placenta presents a bit of a puzzle because she doesn’t really employ the membrane as anything more than a form of canvas. People often question the purpose of what they see as a rather shocking medium.
“Emily has taken a material which some might find difficult to get their head around, and uses its paper quality for her artwork,” explains John Kerl, former Prairie Art Gallery curator. “She doesn’t use it as one might expect. She makes no comment through her use of the membrane. It’s just a substance she’s familiar and comfortable with.”
That she’s familiar with all things bovine is most certain. Mattson came to the Peace area ranch as a young bride in the late sixties, and has worked as both artist and cattle farmer, feeding, calving and fitting whatever creativity she might into her role, which later included mother of two boys.
The mostly self-taught artist says her life, while chaotic at times, never allows her to be bored, and has afforded her an insight into rural life that influences her art.
Maybe the medium and our reaction to it says as much about our culture as it does Mattson’s. We are expecting layers of meaning attached to what she simply sees as a product that’s readily available to her. That kind of simplicity is a wonderful statement in itself.
Eliza Massey, Photographer, Fort St. John
Photographer Eliza Massey says the move from the West Coast to Fort St. John several years ago inspired a bit of a change in focus. Switching to landscapes from portraiture and still life would require different equipment however, and it wasn’t until just this year that Massey purchased a panoramic camera with which to capture her surroundings. “It’s just a small one, but I’ve really enjoyed it,” she says of the camera.
Her last show, exhibited in 2002 at The Dawson Creek Art Gallery, featured portraits of such prominent British Columbia artists as Bill Reid and Toni Onley. The daughter of an architect dad and oil painter mom, Massey studied painting in Los Angeles, Vancouver’s Emily Carr and Halifax’s Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. She’d always had a desire to create, and while painting afforded her that, photography, she felt, was an easier way to make a living. It was also a way to hone the skills required by both artist and photographer: Choosing composition, noticing and recording how light fills a space.
“Black and white is my preferred medium,” Massey says. “Colour tends to date a picture. Black and white photography strips things down to a quality of light; it’s a more timeless look. A picture taken 30 or even 80 years ago can be just as poignant today.”
Massey, whose works have also exhibited in Vancouver and been published in numerous books and magazines, is currently working on building her own darkroom studio, and hopes to produce another show soon. She’s even thinking of painting again. But turning back to creating will involve leaving other roles behind, specifically that of volunteer, which Massey feels is important in her smaller community where there are always voids to fill.