The public is invited to visit with the author of a new book about Cariboo artist Sonia Cornwall at the Central Cariboo Arts Centre on Wednesday, Oct. 21, starting at 7 p.m.
Sonia: The Life of Bohemian, Rancher and Artist Sonia Cornwall, 1919-2006, was written by author-historian Sheryl Salloum who will be launching her book with an illustrated slide show and talk about the painter.
Solloum says the owner of the Westbridge Fine Art Gallery in Vancouver which carries work suggested that she write a book about the artist but it wasn’t until she attended a wedding at Little Lake near Likely that she was convinced to do so.
She met David and Susan Zirnhelt at the wedding who had great praise for Sonia and her work. Then she was fortunate to be able to spend some time at Jones Lake Ranch where Sonia lived and see for herself the scenes that inspired her work.
Unfortunately she says she never had the opportunity to meet the artist who passed away in 2006.
“I think she is one of the most important early artists from the Interior,” Solloum says.
Independent and driven, rancher and artist Sonia Cornwall developed a distinct style that captured the nuances of B.C.’s rugged interior in oils, mixed media, pastels and watercolours, doing for B.C.’s Central Interior what Emily Carr did for the Coast.
The Honourable Judith Guichon, Lieutenant-Governor of B.C., describes Sonia’s paintings as “very real, warm, alive.”
After Sonia Cornwall’s father died in 1939, her mother inherited the Onward Ranch and a huge debt.
To make the ranch viable, a 19-year-old Sonia traded paintbrush for pitchfork, labouring alongside the male ranch hands. But after marrying Hugh Cornwall in 1947, Sonia had time for painting once again.
She learned techniques from some of Canada’s most celebrated artists who came to visit the Onward Ranch, and later her home at the Jones Lake Ranch, such as Peter Aspell, Molly Bobak, Jack Hardman, Herbert Siebner, Group of Seven member A.Y. Jackson, Joe Plaskett, Cliff Robinson and Zeljko Kujundic.
Tales from renowned Cariboo Chilcotin personalities bring Sonia’s story to life.
Joseph Plaskett said of artist Sonia Cornwall that she “goes beyond landscape and draws inspiration from human activity on the land … Sonia, by the strength of her feelings, has created a powerful art.”
Salloum was born and raised in B.C. and for 10 years called the Cariboo home. She graduated from Simon Fraser University and taught in the public school and college systems. A freelance writer for more than 25 years, she has published articles in several Canadian magazines and is the author of three books, including The Life and Art of Mildred Valley Thornton (Mother Tongue, 2011), Underlying Vibrations: The Photography and Life of John Vanderpant (Horsdal & Schubart, 1995) and Malcolm Lowry: Vancouver Days (Harbour Publishing, 1987).
She has been a finalist for two BC Book Prizes: the Hubert Evans Non-Fiction Prize and the Roderick Haig-Brown Regional Prize.