Art that mirrors our Central Albertan selves — with some distortions — is showing in downtown Red Deer in the first ongoing gallery exhibit at City Centre Stage.
Our Back Yard — The People and Landscapes of Central Alberta, diverse paintings by Red Deer College instructor Larry Reese, are being displayed in gallery space at the back of City Centre Stage.
The front foyer features large abstract works from the college’s permanent collection.
Both exhibits can be viewed on Saturday from noon to 5 p.m. and Sunday from 12:30 to 4:40 p.m. during Alberta Culture Days.
In Reese’s oil paintings, he sought to interpret some of the rural and urban flavours of living in this part of the world. “The concept was (to paint) the people and places of Central Alberta . . . it’s about ourselves and our environment, as it was rearranged and reinterpreted by me,” he added, with a chuckle.
Several of his works contain a certain tongue-in-cheek sensibility — including Riders of the Storm. This striking small canvas shows a corpse being dragged by someone through a windy gale. Reese said he painted the woodsy background to this imagined Gothic scene from the same vantage point as his more serene straight-up landscape Autumn at Half Moon Bay.
“Maybe it’s a metaphor for getting rid of your anger or your agony,” he added, noting that his daughter, who posed for the figure dragging the lifeless body, was going through a breakup with her first boyfriend at the time, so there was emotional turmoil in the house.
Another partially imagined painting, ER Market, shows what a farmer’s market would look like if it sprang up on Ross Street. Reese said the painting doesn’t make any kind of statement, except a personal artistic one. “It appealed to me to have that corner come very alive with a market.”
Among his urban works is Kitchen Heart, a glimpse of the hectic, behind-the-scenes action of a restaurant kitchen. Reese, who teaches acting in the RDC Motion Picture Arts program, imagined some drama or “tension” happening between prep staff, while a waitress stands to one side, catching the viewer’s eye.
“She was inspired by Manet’s painting of the girl at the Folies-Bergere, where she’s looking out at us.”
Two of his largest works are pure landscapes, painted near the Raven Brood Trout Station near Caroline, where Reese also based his Guardians of the Sleeping Duck painting.
That piece inspired his Mapping Creativity documentary, a faculty film that’s being screened for the public at 12:30 and 3 p.m. on Saturday at City Centre Stage, along with The Long Road, a film by his RDC colleague Lori Ravensborg.
While the duck painting is on permanent display at the college, viewers can see its companions at City Centre Stage — including Pristine, which shows light reflections in glassy water behind a curtain of trees.
Reese said these large works, for which he is still seeking a home, were influenced by his friend and mentor, Central Alberta artist David More.
“He’s probably my biggest inspiration and mentor.”
Upon leaving Reese’s exhibit, viewers will be greeted by a family portrait called, Hello, We’re From Alberta. Reese said he decided to paint himself, his wife and their son, daughter, and two pets because there was no single photograph with all six of them together.
“There’s a sense of humour to it, I exaggerated their features,” said the local artist, who considers this quirky work his “Corb Lund” response to being Albertan.
“Everybody liked the way I painted everybody else — except themselves.”
The Our Back Yard exhibit is on through October. City Centre Stage will be open from 5 to 8 p.m. during the First Friday gallery openings on Oct. 4.
It will also be routinely open to the public from 10 to 11:30 a.m. on Mondays and Wednesdays, and 2 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays.