Love – that’s what brought this year’s Peace Liard artist in residence to the region, personally and professionally.
Ontario artist Alex Landon Richardson was grateful to receive this year’s residency from the Regional Arts Council, and is busy creating in the basement of the visitor centre in Tumbler Ridge following Open Sky, the council’s 40th juried exhibition.
“Being a newcomer to the area, who already loves nature, this has really helped me to understand the place I’ve moved to, through all of the art that’s surrounding me in here,” she said. “I can look at the local Peace Region art and realize that’s what Atlin Lake looks like, that’s what a cattle rancher’s lifestyle looks like, and I’m getting a sense of the area. It’s a way to get to know the region, while I’m here making art.”
Richardson creates surreal but colourful landscapes with oil paints, her work almost always drawn from nature and mixing reference photos taken from places she’s been.
Her latest piece, entered for Open Sky, used the imagery of Ontario’s Stoney Lake as a backdrop, but with the added familiar glow of the northern lights, so often seen dancing in the skies of the Peace. Light Dance, her upcoming exhibit, is expected to debut this October at the Dawson Creek Art Gallery, and will explore that inspiration further.
“I only got inspired by the northern lights since coming here, having that chance to see them in real life,” she said. “I made up this whole image by mixing photos, and just kind of made my own northern lights scene... they do get some lights [in Southern Ontario] but not as bright as here.”
Richardson moved to the region last August after getting married, relocating from the small town of Erin, Ont., just northwest of Toronto. Richardson says the slower pace and abundance of wilderness here suits her, adding Tumbler Ridge ideal for an artist residency, and Chetwynd an ideal home.
“I’m used to that quieter pace,” she said. “I drive in every day, and that’s been one of the coolest parts of this residency. In one day I’ve seen two moose, a black bear, two grizzly bears, fourteen elks, and a whole field of baby deer, all in one drive.”
Teaching is another passion for Richardson, who holds a Master’s of Fine Arts from University of London, and a Bachelor’s of Arts from Western University. She taught art for four years in North Bay, Ont., in addition to running her own gallery.
“Working with students is great, they’re always excited to be there,” she said.
She’s also had the opportunity to paint around the world, visiting exotic locales including Australia and South Africa to take part in several painting retreats. They function much like residencies, Richardson says, but in those cases she paid to be there – it’s rarer to be given the opportunity to be paid to be paint, and was pleasantly surprised to be chosen as this year’s recipient.
“I’m really grateful for this opportunity, it’s amazing,” she said.
Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News