Works by artists Shannon Williamson and Crystalynn Tarr are being shown at the Station House Gallery until Oct. 29
Williamson’s exhibit, A Pilgrim’s Progress, portrays a journey to the Celestial City and the passages Williamson faced along the way.
“We are all going somewhere,” Williamson says. “Whether we move forward onto the road of least resistance or back sliding into the ruts of the past, we are ever moving. The important question one needs to ask is not where am I now, but rather where am I going?”
She says this isn’t a novel question but an age-old story best told by John Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress.
“His magnificent work chronicles the life of Christian, who on the road to the Celestial City encounters many trials and tribulations along the way. Though the story was first told in 1678, the concept of the struggling pilgrim is just as relevant today as it was centuries ago.”
Williamson says this past year and a half has been one of both great loss and yet immense spiritual growth and understanding for herself. In that time, her mother was diagnosed with terminal cancer and passed away after a spirited battle.
“My mother’s life, along with The Pilgrims Progress, is the framework in which I picture this hard road home and what inspired this new body of artwork. Each painting has come to represent various stations of a pilgrimage and the faithfulness of the Light to see us to safety. There are many struggles along the path, and each hill, valley, slough and river we inevitably cross, tempers us into who we are today and grants us a compass.”
Williamson, a former Williams Lake resident, grew up with an appreciation and love of the land that would fill her canvases and inspire her in the studio.
After graduating from high school she moved to Red Deer where she studied Art and Design at Red Deer College.
After two years in central Alberta she moved to Calgary and continued her studies in art and art history.
Upon completion of her bachelor of fine arts in painting from the University of Calgary, Williamson began working at a art gallery in Calgary. She later became the assistant director at Wallace Galleries Ltd.
Though many of her hours are spent at the gallery, Williamson maintains a strong studio practice and teaches workshops dedicated to Encaustic painting — an ancient process of mixing pigment and beeswax.
Tarr, who grew up in Prince George with a family dedicated to weekend excursions up mountains and to the lakes or rivers, developed a love for the wilderness that is only rivalled by her passion for art. Being an avid doodler during her school years brought much frustration to many teachers as tests, papers and notebooks routinely came back with elaborate decorations in the margins. It was only natural that these two passions should eventually merge and that her exhibit is aptly named My Heart, My Land.
“Biology was giving me a bit of a headache,” Tarr says, adding that art and spending time in the outdoors are her two passions.
At first Tarr tried to separate her passions and art took to the sidelines as she pursued sciences and outdoor recreational activities. After several years of math, science and a series of migraines from number crunching Tarr gave in to her calling and immersed herself in art and English, eventually achieving the Art Award in her Grade 12 year.
It still took several years to solidify this merging of the outdoors and creative life but it finally happened.
Landscapes and specifically the mountains began to creep back into her art in 2009 as her return to the city after working at a wilderness camp in the Canadian Rockies increased her desire to be in the mountains again.
“Mountains have always been one of my passions,” she says.
In 2010 she earned the Toni Onley Award/Scholarship for a painting she submitted at Arts Fest and spent nine glorious days being inspired and gaining confidence in her work.
With continued correspondence with Lyndal Osbourne, one of the project’s mentors, and Rick Cepella, a project participant, Tarr jumped into the art world with both feet.
Shortly after returning from the Toni Onley Artists’ Project Tarr’s work was accepted for exhibition at the Station House Gallery in Williams Lake and the Two Rivers Art Gallery in Prince George. She was also able to participate in several projects initiated by the Community Arts Council in Prince George including a four-by-four-foot mural for their Creative Fusion project.
Throughout the past few years she has discovered that painting is a journey and the exhibition is the result of that process. It is constantly evolving as she experiments, learns new techniques and tries new things both on canvas and in life.
Tarr continues to look forward to her journey of discovery of both the land in which she lives and the mediums with which she works.