Musings from the ever-changing, ever-amazing and occasionally ever-baffling Fort McMurray, Alberta.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Seeing The Wood Buffalo Truth

There are so many things happening recently in the city that I find myself desperately pressed for time most days, as so many of us do. I rush from appointment to appointment, activities related to the Intrepid Junior Bloggers, school council meetings, all becomes a bit of a blur most days. And I often find me scolding myself for not making the time to do something I have promised myself that I will do - like just yesterday when I realized I still hadn't gone to the community art gallery at MacDonald Island Park to see their latest exhibit, entitled "Wood Buffalo Truth".

I felt particularly bad about this as I have written about one of the artists showcased in the exhibit, Megan Storrar, and I even own one of her beautiful pieces. So, yesterday, after I finished at the gym instead of heading straight to the locker room I headed to the hallway on the second floor of Mac Island (which houses the gallery). I was hot, sweaty, tired, and not sure I was really in the mood for art - but the instant I walked in my mood changed. And that's because the art in this exhibit is all about my community. It is my Fort McMurray. It is my home, and it is the truth as seen by artists Megan Storrar and Margaret Sonnenberg. It is my truth, too.

The only camera I had with me was my iPhone, and thus I apologize for the poor quality of these photos. They don't do the actual paintings justice at all - but perhaps this glimpse of them will convince you of the need to see them in person. There is something profound about these paintings, people. There is something very real, very touching, and very personal about them, because if you have lived here you have seen these things. In a city so often portrayed by outside media as consisting of nothing but tailings ponds, giant trucks, and wide, dirty, dusty streets lined with traffic and book-ended by bars, these paintings show another side. They show the beauty that is our region.

I love Margaret Sonnenberg's stained-glass effect paintings. 
Stunning in their simplicity,
 beautiful in their execution.

I love the way Megan Storrar paints trees - 
they come alive in her mind's eye, 
and they frame our gorgeous northern skies.
 Megan exhorts us to simply "look up" - 
and when we look up here 
we can see so very much, 
from northern lights to a beautiful blue sky.

 The skate park at Borealis Park has become
 a spot close to my heart for many reasons.
 I think it says so much about this city,
 a very urban feeling skate park 
so close to the natural beauty of the river. 
And this painting that captures the joy of a rider mid-jump? 

 The riverbank in winter. 
Is there a sight more stunning in this place we call home?

The tranquility and beauty we find here -
 and one so unexpected when you first arrive 
and don't know what you will find.

The forest paths in winter -
 perhaps my very favourite season of all 
simply for the crisp colours and temperature.

 The colours of fall, the autumn sky - 
the natural beauty that surrounds us.

When you first arrive at the gallery this is the first painting to greet you. The infamous Highway 63 - the highway we talk about, worry about, complain about, wish were twinned already - and the highway that brings every person who travels by road into this community. There are a few famous highways in the world, like the iconic "Route 66" - I would argue that Highway 63 has become iconic in Canada for so many reasons, but mostly because it is the highway that leads to one of the most unusual, fascinating, and wondered about places in the world - Fort McMurray, Alberta.

By the time I left the art gallery I was still hot and sweaty but no longer tired. Instead I felt uplifted. I use this blog to write about my story of life in this community. I try to share my story of life here through my words, and Margaret and Megan do the same thing, but with their paintbrushes. I am delighted that we seem to have a similar vision, too, one that sees not just the city but our natural beauty and the beauty of our residents. Their truth is very similar to mine in many respects, and it is a truth known by all those who have lived here for any length of time. Wood Buffalo isn't just oil sands and pick up trucks, tailings ponds and dusty streets. The truth is that Wood Buffalo is a place of all those things, but it's also a place of forests and rivers and sun dogs and northern lights, and the kind of beauty that brings you joy. I found that sense of joy at the exhibit of "Wood Buffalo Truth" - and I encourage you to go and do the same, Fort Mac. 

The exhibit "Wood Buffalo Truth"
is at the 
MacDonald Island Community Art Gallery
until February 24th.

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