Group strives to have town recognized for its contributions to visual arts
As Niagara-on-the-Lake increasingly becomes a town recognized for its cultural offerings, local artists are working to put the town on the map as a centre for the visual arts.
“There’s the theatre, wineries, history — but the visual arts is kind of off to the side here,” artist and gallery owner Ruth Aspinall said in an interview at the new NOTL Arts Collective’s exhibition on Sunday.
“There are so many visual artists here in town but we don’t have a forum and visual arts as a whole doesn’t really have a forum.”
Aspinall owns Art Space 106, a gallery on Queen Street.
She celebrated the NOTL Arts Collective as the beginning of a new life for the visual arts in NOTL.
“There is an incredible amount of talent in this town and the art collective is a way of working together to try and promote and support each other,” she said.
Aspinall’s piece, titled “The Melting World,” was the largest painting on display – the canvas was nearly five feet tall.
“I do like working on big canvases but they’re a tough sell so I do try to scale down and paint smaller pieces too,” shel said.
Her piece is an abstract commentary on climate change and features a gush of white down the middle of the canvas, evocatory of a melting glacier, as other colours were drowned out on its sides.
“With everything that’s going on with the environment, our infrastructure, climate change — this just kind of happened as a representation of the Earth and the melt,” she said.
Aspinall said she often sits down at a canvas and lets the colours and movements of the wrist take her away. Other times, as was the case with “The Melting World,” she has a general idea of what she wants to do but will still discover the painting during its creation.
She said she often has multiple paintings on the go and finishes them as inspiration moves her.
Nancy Wardle’s paintings provided a relative contrast to those of Aspinall. Wardle’s two pieces were both portraits of real individuals.
One was of an older woman Wardle met while in Florida, evoked with a very colourful palate.
Wardle, who just returned from down south, said she went to an Art in the Yard sale and met the elderly artist.
“She was all hunched over and her fingers were quite gnarly. Her whole house and her yard is an art studio. It was just so eccentric and she was so colourful and we just started talking,” Wardle said.
Her other painting was of a well-known internet picture of a soldier with tears in his eyes.
Wardle actually got in touch with the American soldier, Fin Doherty, and learned his story first-hand.
“This was a ceremony. He had just finished his paratrooper classes and they were presenting him with the marine beret that his brother had worn in 2008 before he was killed in Afghanistan,” she explained.
The image was particularly powerful for her as war rages in Ukraine and Wardle said she was brought to tears on several occasions while working on the painting.
Wardle said she has been creative her whole life but wasn’t able to focus on her talents until she retired and moved to Niagara-on-the-Lake.
Lynn Weiner had a realistic painting on display of a well-known locale in NOTL — Balzac’s on King Street.
“I love living here because I find a lot of inspiration,” Weiner said.
“Like, this is just a Balzac’s cafe but there’s flowers, there’s nature — I always find something to paint here.”
Weiner has been drawing and painting since she was a kid. One of her earliest art-related memories is of her father taking her to the zoo.
“My dad would take me to the zoo and put me in front of a cage and let me doodle. So, I started drawing animals at a very young age,” she said.
“I remember mostly drawing bears. But, he would take me there and he would just leave me there,” she said with a fond laugh in remembrance.
“He would walk around and give me all the time I wanted to draw. It was wonderful.”
Weiner lived and worked in Los Angeles for many years. When she moved to NOTL eight years ago she started taking classes at the Pumphouse Arts Centre.
Now her art is on display for everyone to see. The NOTL Arts Collective’s current exhibit will run until April 24.
At the beginning of May, a new series of works will be on display in the Pumphouse’s Joyner Gallery, chair Lise Andreana said.