From rolling country roads to old train stations and movie theatres, the two artists behind the exhibit, Landmarks: Sense of Place, hope their works will remind people of “home.”
Carol Lynn Gilchrist and Wendy Meeres each took a different approach to painting Central Alberta — Gilchrist through landscapes and Meeres through historic buildings.
But both of the artists, whose works are now jointly showing at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery, wanted to evoke a sense of familiarity in viewers.
“I hope it will trigger memories and stories in people. I love to hear stories of any place that has meaning,” said Gilchrist.
Meeres hopes visitors will reflect on what home means to them. If they recognize some of the depicted locales, from Didsbury to Rimbey, she encourages them to share their personal stories in the exhibit’s guest book.
A “sense of place,” for Meeres, brings to mind Red Deer’s Club Cafe, where her grandpa used to take her when she was a child. “We would always have to go to the Club Cafe and grandpa would always have to talk to Mr. Mah,” the cafe owner.
The Club Cafe sign — which is due to come down soon, as the Ross Street cafe is slated to be demolished this spring along with the 120-year-old Buffalo Hotel next door — features distinctly in one of her paintings.
Meeres, who has always been drawn to historic places, admitted she feels lucky to have captured the cafe before it’s gone forever — just as she managed to paint the Bentley grain elevator and the Innisfail movie theatre before both were recently decimated by fires.
Another Red Deer landmark Meeres has rendered in detail is the Victorian Cronquist House, which sat on the edge of her West Park neighbourhood, before being moved across the Red Deer River to Bower Ponds in 1976.
To many kids of the ’50s and ’60s the turret-ed residence “was the ‘ghost house,’” joked Gilchrist.
While Meeres spent much of the pandemic travelling to small towns and photographing historic buildings to be later recreated on paper or canvas, Gilchrist spent most days between last May and October plein air painting from roadside ditches.
“It’s safer than being on the shoulder” of country roads, explained Gilchrist. She prefers to either paint right at the scene, or do quick sketches and finish the works in her Riverlands Studio. Some of her landscapes are done from memory.
Dramatic cloud patterns and the rollercoaster effect of country roads appear in her works.
Gilchrist said she returned to some of her favourite places to paint, capturing the wind-swept expanses of Dry Island Buffalo Jump, the high banks of the Red Deer River at Burbank, and the winding Blindman River.
The two artists spent a memorable day painting together at Markerville last spring, and Gilchrist said her depiction of two trees “could represent Wendy and me — we were both sitting back-to-back, turned away from each other, painting different views.”
Both artists, who have taken visual arts classes at Red Deer Polytechnic, have held previous solo shows over the years. Their Landmarks: A Sense of Place exhibit continues to March 11.