Hidden Truths (detail), an acrylic painting by Red Deer artist Carol Lynn Gilchrist. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

Red Deer artist finds lightness after a dark period of grief

Carol Lynn Gilchrist’s latest exhibit is a personal response to her brother’s death

Red Deer artist Carol Lynn Gilchrist’s landscape paintings turned into haunting nightscapes after her brother’s death last spring.

“I acknowledged there was much darkness within me,” said Gilchrist, when she could no longer paint luminous watercolour scenes.

Instead, she picked up opaque acrylic paints and began working from her imagination, depicting empty roadways that veered off into blackness, or disappeared off the page.

Gilchrist admits she ended up destroying most of these painful reminders of her grief because she wanted to move on from a troubled mindset.

She began consciously searching for “a light to see, to feel, to reflect” — and hopefully, to help her return to “a place of joy.”

The resulting artworks she created comprise a “deeply personal response” to the death of her sibling, Brian Gilchrist, and can be seen in the Chasing the Light exhibit in the Corridor Gallery, downstairs at the Red Deer Recreation Centre.

As last spring slipped into a cool-ish summer, Gilchrist’s art began taking on tints of colour.

One day, during a country drive, “I was looking at the sky and feeling small,” she recalled, when the setting sun created a glow along the Prairie horizon that left her feeling “engulfed in light …

“I thought, there is way too much beauty in the world to continue to be sad.”

Gilchrist’s paintings of Prairie skies vibrate with emotional purples and yellows — and especially the oranges her late brother, who was an artist as well as a photographer, had favoured in his own works.

Her depiction of turbulent waves of cumulus clouds in the painting Breaking Apart stretch up to the heavens, while her backyard study, Hidden Truths, is a testament to moments of quiet contemplation.

“For every painting I wrote a note — what I was thinking, where I was,” recalled Gilchrist, and her art became representational of her passage through sadness to a greater equilibrium.

Gilchrist said her older brother, who died of heart failure at age 60 last March, had been diagnosed with schizophrenia while he was a young visual arts student at Red Deer College. He had to be hospitalized for a period and never finished the program.

But, despite being challenged by this illness his whole life, Brian never stopped pursuing his creative muse.

Gilchrist discovered the artistic process can help an individual in many ways — even in navigating through grief.

The retired municipal planner has been honing her skills through various private art classes. But Gilchrist recently enrolled in RDC’s visual arts program to expand her education — and to finish the journey her brother started.


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Breaking Apart (detail), an acrylic painting by Red Deer artist Carol Lynn Gilchrist. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).

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