An exhibition of community artistry at Owens

Sackville Art Association holds annual show.

In a celebration of Sackville artists and their work, the Sackville Art Association held its annual Members’ Exhibition last weekend in order to present a collection of exhibits from a diverse array of community contributors. Featuring a collection of paintings by Judith Arkell as well as various works from other local artists, the Owens Art Gallery attracted a large crowd on Sunday, Nov. 17 that gathered to appreciate the inexplicable artistic talent contained within our humble town. This year, the entire exhibition was dedicated to the life and memory of prolific Canadian artist Alex Colville, who passed away this summer. In addition to his many contributions to Mount Allison University, Colville himself was an executive member of the Sackville Art Association for many years.

The exhibition contains twenty four paintings and one sculpture by this year’s featured artist, Judith Arkell. Additionally, Struts Gallery coordinator Amanda Fauteux bestowed the Annual VIP Award to Barbara van Leeuwen for her innovative rug hooking piece entitled “Tantramar” which depicts an idyllic New Brunswick countryside superimposed within a barn. Although the exhibition as a whole is artistically impressive, van Leeuwen’s use of this craft medium made her work stand out in a refreshing way. 

Due to the magnitude of Arkell’s exhibition, observers could quickly identify the impressive breadth of her style and artistic ability. While some artists have a visible theme that carries through a series of their work, Arkell’s defining motif is the deliberate lack of repetition, with each new painting utilizing a completely unique perspective and mood. Many of her paintings are of landscapes both familiar and foreign, upon which Arkell expertly inscribes a set of feelings, personalities, and identities that are intrinsic to each location. For example, while the blurry watercolours of “Potato Field” imply a rugged and difficult lifestyle, the crisp stillness of “Peggy’s Cove” depicts a world that is geographically close but ideologically distant. Finally, though her paintings generally do not contain people, they often give the profound implication of life; both “Logan’s Barn” and “Red Boat at Aboiteau” suggest an absentee human interaction, leaving a residual tranquility that Arkell captures with breathtaking authenticity.

Arkell considers art to be a defining aspect of her identity. During a brief interview, she explains that she often felt ostracized while growing up in her hometown of Lakeville, Ontario due to her “eccentric” family and artistic interests. She would spend much of her time alone at home sketching and painting her pets, an isolation that ultimately shaped her as an individual and developed her as an artist.

“I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t paint,” she says. A unique and humble woman, Arkell’s quirky and fun personality almost seems to betray the contemplative power that her works distinctly embody.

Established in 1935, the Sackville Art Association is an organization dedicated to the promotion and education of visual arts that is completely open to all members of the public. In addition to providing weekly workshops for its members, the SAA donates scholarships to graduating high school students and holds an exhibition in the Owens every year to highlight the artistic achievements and developments of their members.

The exhibition, can be viewed in the Owens Art Gallery until Dec. 15 of this year.

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