Galia Kwetny’s painting Skywalk contains everything that brought her solace and contentment after arriving in Canada in 2002.
Alberta’s mountains and turquoise glacier lakes are suggested in the oil and acrylic painting, as is this province’s vast and fertile Prairie, depicted through a sienna semi-circle in the foreground.
Kwetny, who previously lived in Israel and Russia, believes it’s hard for non-immigrants to imagine how difficult and lonely the transition to a new country can be. “I knew the language, but it was still scary… You are thrown off everything. Everything is outside your comfort zone.”
Kwetny found inner strength and peace in her adopted homeland through Alberta’s natural beauty, and aimed to reflect this in her art: “It is about feeling elated when you travel.”
Skywalk is part of Kwetny’s Evoked Earth exhibit at the white gallery, attached to Sunworks on Ross Street. Other works in this visual travelogue of a show were also inspired by Canada — as well as Portugal, Peru, California, Israel and other places that Kwetny’s been to, or plans to visit.
“When I travel abroad, I witness the seemingly constant need of human beings to travel and explore, to leave the familiar and be awed by the new,” said the Red Deer artist. At the same time, she believes travellers always look for features that remind them of home.
Kwetny, who was born into a Jewish family in the Soviet Union, moved to Israel in her early 20s. Her painting Serenity, captures the warm glow of the Dead Sea, as seen from the banks of Israel, with Jordan’s bright shore glimmering across the water.
Although peace is the last thing associated with the Middle East, Kwetny felt immersed in the silence of that tranquil spot, knowing the salty sea would embrace her and keep her afloat, even if she paddled all the way to Jordan.
Her large painting The Navigators was inspired by a visit to Sagres in Portugal, where Prince Henry ran his school of navigation in the 1400s. The school’s mysterious sundial, radiating beams of light, is central to the work, as is a ghostly image of a caravel ship.
Another geographical work, Desiderata, was based on Fort Ross, near San Francisco, where Russians sailed down from what’s now Alaska to create a settlement in the early 1800s. Their route is traced with a blue line, while the route of Spanish sailors is in red.
Kwetny, who has a Masters degree in fine arts and runs the Artribute School in Red Deer, hopes her paintings evoke emotions from viewers and help them recall their own favourite landscapes. “I want them to feel elated and fascinated by the Earth.”
The show runs to July 29.