The newest Island Mountain Arts (IMA) exhibition celebrates the beauty and heritage of barns.
Maple Ridge-based artist Kristin Krimmel is exhibiting her work, The Barn Project, in Wells for the next two weeks and will be launching the exhibition Friday, March 15.
When Krimmel moved to Maple Ridge 12 years ago, she started photographing the barns around her new home, and she says she was particularly attracted to the barns along Old Dewdney Trunk Road. She took every opportunity to photograph them, even though she didn’t know what she would do with the images she collected.
Her photographs became resource material for The Barn Project. Krimmel says she drew inspiration from the way light played on the barns she photographed in the Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows area, morning, noon and night, changing the geometric architecture, emblazoning the surface and deepening the shadows.
Krimmel says she immediately felt soothed by the landscape of rolling farmlands around her when she moved to Maple Ridge.
“The farmland culture is such a pleasant contrast to the urban culture,” she said in an email interview. “It is placid, serene, natural and nourishing for the soul. It’s visually harmonious.”
Krimmel describes herself as inquisitive and analytical. She couldn’t help but wonder about her reaction to the farmland culture around her.
“When I became a participant in this landscape, I asked myself these same questions,” she said. “I asked myself, ‘Why is it so soothing? Why do we prefer green spaces to urban concrete ones?’ In my opinion, it is because both the cultivated and the wild landscape brings us back to the earth, to the soul of our origins and our destination after death. The land is a part of our essential being. I’m sure a farmer will tell you that he or she is always at work and the crises on a farm are equally dramatic to those in an urban context. The urban landscape, on the other hand, is cold, hard (concrete) and the life is frenetic and demanding. It takes a practiced eye to find beauty in it. It is often a hodgepodge of visual ideas. It’s often practical but ugly.”
Krimmel says she was also drawn to barns because she is interested in Canadian history and in the lives of settlers.
“We have witnessed an extraordinary period of immigration in the past 200 years,” she said. “The poor and middle class were able to move to a place where living was what you made of it. People from many nations were able to come, settle, farm, become educated, become owners of their efforts, to prosper and to create their own immediate worlds through their own labours. This is becoming less possible now, as the easily arable lands have been bought up and fenced, and established farms are sold at unaffordable prices for middle and poor classes. Corporations are now owning a greater percentage of farmlands, or small-holding rural lands are being sold very profitably for housing.
The farms of the early 20th century are symbols of that early settler’s dream, of their work ethic and idealism. Farmers built structures to house their activities: shelter for themselves and for their animals, the processing areas, the storage of their products and the safe-guarding of their equipment.”
Krimmel has seen how times change, and how farms have adapted. Land is being sold, agricultural practices are changing with technology and the demand for new products, and built structures are being transformed for new uses.
“Barns, unusable for cows, now are becoming homes, much as mills did in earlier times, or they are simply being let go,” she said. “The fad of using barn boards for decor and furniture results in some abandoned barns being stripped of their essential outer walls and lumber, or they are rotting away.
“I feel that barns are now symbols of architectural heritage, first of all, and then of transformation and adaptability.”
With The Barn Project, like all her painting, Krimmel hopes to open the eyes of those who view her work to “the simple beauty which surrounds them.”
“I would like people to feel the beauty of the marriage between landscape and architecture, and to remember that the land is permanent, while man and his architecture is an ephemeral newcomer,” she said. “I would also like them to see barns as visual beauty. The individual structures are made with beautiful proportions, which are enhanced by the play of light and atmospheric conditions on their abstract three-dimensional forms.”
Krimmel first came to Wells last July to teach a workshop in drawing, and she is excited to be back.
“It was the first time I was in the Cariboo area, and I fell in love with it,” she said. “I was delighted to have the chance to bring my artwork for exhibition and to spend some time painting the landscape here. There is a strong farming culture in the Cariboo to appreciate these portraits of farms which I have painted. I see that local barns are adapted to the land which they serve and find them different from the Fraser Valley barns. They are calling on me to paint them, to record their place in time and their purpose in the community.”
Krimmel says she is an intuitive painter.
“I don’t always know beforehand what it is about a subject that draws me in,” she said. “With the barns, I have been photographing them for over 10 years , not knowing how I would express them. Then one day, I said to myself, ‘just start. Start with drawings until you know what it is that drives this interest.’”
The Barn Project features about 25 pieces, and Krimmel says she will soon embark upon “a more experimental way” of expressing these pieces.
Krimmel will be in Wells Friday, March 15 for an artist talk and the opening of The Barn Project. The exhibition opening takes place from 7-9 p.m. at the Island Mountain Arts Gallery at 2323 Pooley St.
The Barn Project exhibition will remain on view at the gallery through March 31.
For more information, contact the IMA office at 1-800-442-2787 or visit support-imarts.com.