Echo Armstrong’s painting, The Observer: California Bristlecone Pine (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Reconciliation, as interpreted by two Red Deer artists

Andrea Lacoursiere and Echo Armstrong tackle big themes in joint exhibit

Red Deer artist Andrea Lacoursiere won’t be waving the Maple Leaf flag on Canada’s 150th birthday.

Having worked closely on the Walking with Our Sisters exhibit about missing aboriginal women, the Red Deer museum worker said she knows too much about the unjust treatment of First Nations people to celebrate Canada’s nationhood.

“We are born out of genocide, starvation and addiction, and that’s a hard thing to swallow…”

As Lacoursiere wrote in her statement for the joint art exhibit, Oh Canada… Reflections of My Reconciliation, at the Kerry Wood Nature Centre: “We’re supposed to… have barbecues and celebrate our sesquicentennial with cake… but I just can’t bring myself to RSVP to the party.”

Reconciliation — with Canada’s shameful past and with personal trauma — are the themes of this show in the Marjorie Wood Gallery, which also includes works celebrating “mundane” creatures, by fellow painter Echo Armstrong.

Larcoursiere, who uses fine brushstrokes to add abstraction to her bold landscape paintings, believes if there’s something to extol about Canada, it’s the land itself.

Even her 14-year-old son was captivated on a recent hike near Canmore. “He was at a loss for words… he just wanted to be there in that moment,” recalled the self-taught artist, who was thinking about the dichotomy between Canada’s spectacular scenery and its ignoble history while painting Moraine Lake, Tonquin Valley and Three Sisters, Alberta.

She hopes viewers will remember the indigenous people pushed out of our national parks, even as they admire the scenery.

Armstrong strives to achieve personal reconciliation after contracting Lyme Disease from a tick bite in 2008. Her debilitating condition wasn’t diagnosed until 2015, and Armstrong is still lobbying for sufferers to get better funding for out-of-country health treatments.

The former social worker said she was always creative, but didn’t start painting until she couldn’t do much else.

Tiny creatures that others overlook are depicted in her works — Alberta’s star-nosed mole, the microscopic slug-like tardigrade, even a stunted California pine tree, one of the oldest living things on Earth.

“There is something that pulls us towards the beautiful,” said the artist — but beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Armstrong admitted she has great respect for small things, since her life was devastated by an insect “no larger than a poppyseed.”

The exhibit runs to July 4.

lmichelin@reddeeradvocate.com

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