During the early 1900s,
regattas in Muskoka were a popular pastime for the wealthy who flocked
from southern Ontario and northern U.S.A. to vacation at the many
resorts that lined the lakes. Dressed in their finest attire, men in
dark suits and women wearing long gowns and large hats, learned how to
paddle a canoe or chase the wind in a sailboat for the first time.
Considered as the highlight of the summer season, such
regattas were held for the joy of amateur competition and camaraderie.
photographs taken more than 100 years ago, Bev Clark and Joanne Contant
recreate in paint the activities and people who participated in
regattas, what they wore and how they travelled to the grand resorts.
Their paintings will be on display at the Chapel Gallery in an
exhibition titled Regatta Memories.
In preparing for
this exhibition, both Bev and Joanne had to step outside of their
“comfort zone.” As landscape and still life painters, painting
figures and faces was challenging. “Painting faces is just not in my
bag of tricks,” admits Bev. Many of the photographs that were used for
reference were small and blurry. “I had difficulty interpreting what I
was seeing,” adds Joanne. For both artists, working in colour from
black and white images was easier said than done, as they had no way to
be sure what the original colour was so the artists had to use their
imaginations and researched potential colours of the day. According to
Joanne, such creative problem solving ends up being the most valuable
learning experience. “You can’t have growth without challenges,”
she says. “Partnering with Bev was a great experience. We paint with
different media and techniques yet it was a successful collaboration
that included sharing research, ideas and providing support when needed.
The advantage of working with a partner is how you can inspire or
motivate each other.”
Both Bev and
Joanne are self-taught artists, learning through trial and error, taking
workshops along the way or studying the art of much admired painters.
They are happiest when sitting in front of a canvas and with a
paintbrush in hand.
In the past
decade, Bev, an aquatic scientist, has swung the focus of his work from
science to art. Art, for Joanne, helps to balance her life. A
professional accountant involved with detail and order, art allows
Joanne to experiment, ignore details and more importantly, not to have
expected outcomes that have to conform to rules.
The artists hope
that viewers to their exhibition will travel back in time and experience
this romanticized and elegant period in time. “I also hope it conjures
memories from their past,” states Joanne. “For the younger viewers,
this show might be informative. They may be surprised at the dresses
women wore and how it limited their movements yet they were boarding
boats and trains in these long, heavy dresses. The most fascinating
aspect is the formal dress worn to events for both women and men.”
opens on Saturday, June 25 with a reception from 12noon until 4pm.