By Haley Bassett, September 14th 2021
This week, I had the pleasure of speaking with Suzanne Sandboe, a Sexsmith-based artist, about her wondrous trip to Newfoundland that launched her solo show Where Ya To?, which is on display now at the Beaverlodge Area Cultural Society until September 23rd.
It was evident what this trip meant to Suzanne simply in the animated way she spoke about her experiences on “The Rock”. What started as a nearly spur of the moment trip resulted in a dazzling body of work and an unforgettable experience.
Suzanne arrived in Baine Harbour, Newfoundland, which she described as “the prettiest little harbour town”, in the summer of 2017. Over two weeks, she sketched and painted en plein air, gathering subjects and studies for the series of inspired paintings featured in Where Ya To? Every day, she set off from her tiny house overlooking a sparkling ocean scene of bustling fishermen and bobbing boats, to seek out the hidden gems of inspiration. As experienced painters like Sandboe know, it takes some time and effort to find those rare moments worth immortalizing in paint.
The artist toured through gently winding coastal roads, along rows of quaint, brightly painted houses, each with its swaying clothesline and tidy, fenced yard. She absorbed the distinct rhythm of life in a small fishing community, as she recorded the routines of the fishermen in her sketches. She watched as they pulled in the nets for the day, a tranquil moment that she reflected beautifully in Hauling Ashore the Gill Nets.
Sandboe was particularly struck by the openness and warmth of the locals, who on many occasions, invited her into their homes for tea and delectable home-baking. The residents, who were tickled by the thought of an Albertan finding her way east for a change, would regularly chat with Suzanne as she worked. They apprised her on the history of their families and community, their relationship with the land, as well as current local issues. This insight deepened the artist’s understanding of the place, and enriched her experience in a way that has translated clearly in her work.
For Suzanne, one of the standout moments of her trip was Canada Day, which included a small but exuberant parade, followed by day-long festivities and local music. The artist watched the celebrations from afar, and worked as the lively fiddle music floated up to her vantage point in the bay. All the while, the ever-curious and supportive locals checked on her progress regularly. “I can’t put into words how special it was,” says Suzanne. Fortunately for us, what she couldn’t find the words to describe, she communicated beautifully through paint.
Where Ya To? was previously shown at Grant Berg Gallery in Grande Prairie, by whom Suzanne is currently represented. Do drop in for this encore exhibition for a dose of easy, pre-pandemic east-coast living brought to you by one of the area’s most accomplished painters.
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