Nature leads the way

Painter and carver reveal their passion in first every show

Marguerite Whittingham

The current show in the Quesnel Art Gallery, Deep in the Forest, showcases the work of painter Marguerite Whittingham and carver Arlene Cave. For both women, this is the first time their work has been offered in a show.

“My work is primarily for my own enjoyment,” Whittingham said.

She admitted her first artistic expression was as a child, scribbling in the Bible.

Always interested in painting and drawing scenes from nature, this inspiration has carried her throughout her life, but as for many, life and raising her family got in the way of her artistic expression.

However, for the past 10 years, painting has consumed Whittingham and once she added the dimension of real time hiking, canoeing and experiencing nature, capturing images with her camera then transcribing them to her canvasses, she felt she’s found her fire.

Every location (but one) depicted on the walls of the art gallery reflect a place Whittingham has experienced first hand. Every waterfall (her favourite), every forest, every sacred totem and rock face hold memories and emotions for her that she then commits to canvas.

“In such a piece as Among the Giants I feel part of the 2000-year history of the place, the trees, the forest floor,” she said.

Then, as her own presence is testament, she adds the newly grown trees.

“I’m immersed in everything around me.”

But Whittingham comes back to the waterfalls that truly inspire her.

“They hum and sing, they roar and thunder, I feel their power,” she added.

She labels herself a landscape painter but is quick to state she’s not a Tom Thompson or Emily Carr but is proud to say she enjoys similar experiences as those two great painters.

For Arlene Cave, carving is something she almost literally fell into.

Always interested in creative pursuits, in 1996 Cave joined an informal group of ladies, under the tutelage of Hazel Smith, making walking sticks, folk art, birds and Christmas ornaments.

This set her on a path that far exceeded her mentor. She became zealous about carving and her skill grew. Cave has dedicated her show to Hazel Smith who was always a strong supporter and proponent of Cave’s work.

“I had made willow furniture but the only thing I’d carved was soap in elementary school,” she said with a smile.

“I never knew I’d love it or would be any good at it.”

Cave also enjoys taking long walks looking for just the right piece of cottonwood bark and allows the wood to lead her inspiration.

“I carve when the mood takes me.”

And the average-sized piece consumes about 20 hours.

She loves carving whether its the cottonwood bark spirit houses and characters, bass wood birds or even the fish from a rather unorthodox source.

“I like it all.”

Having just completed a new carving studio addition on her home, Cave is happy to work away on a piece, listening to soothing easy-listening music.

“I especially love carving

in summer when the light is perfect. Some pieces drive me to work non-stop, eager to see

what the finished piece will

be, others slowly reveal themselves.”

Deep in the Forest hangs to the end of August and is sponsored by Cariboo Peat and Gravel.

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