Regarding Mary: Truth and Reconciliation


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My previous post was about the Prairie Madonna theme in my Regarding Mary exhibit at Bleeding Heart Art Space.

I will be writing another post about my other two themes in the exhibit, Mary Star of the Sea, and Our Lady of Thrift.

Our Lady of Thrift installation in Regarding Mary exhibit by Marlena Wyman (photo by Bleeding Heart Art Space)

For now, I want to speak about truth and reconciliation.

I acknowledge that we are on Treaty 6 territory that includes nehiyowak (Plains Cree), muskowiyinowak (Swampy Cree), sakaw iyinowak (Woodland Cree) and apîhtaw kosisanak (Metis).

It is not my place to tell the story of indigenous people through my artwork, but because my subject matter lands soundly in the midst of that, I offer my support. This is not an area of expertise for me, but I am trying to learn.

My words are guided by my friend Joseph Naytowhow, an interdisciplinary artist and Nehiyo/Cree knowledge keeper from the Sturgeon Lake First Nation Band in Saskatchewan, and a kind and good man. I thank him for his guidance.

In my exhibit, there are two levels to be addressed regarding truth and reconciliation: religion and settlement. The church and government inflicted terrible harm on indigenous people and their culture, and settlement took over their lands and disregarded treaties. When speaking of women’s rights and treatment, which I did in my last post, it is important to remember that indigenous women have always carried the heaviest burden of oppression and harm.

The Anglican Church of Canada’s open letter to Senator Lynn Beyak regarding residential schools is titled “There was nothing good”. I encourage you read that letter.

My Dad, Barry Wyman, and his  sister June on the family farm, Baintree AB ca 1940

Settlement is part of my heritage. My paternal grandparents were part of the government’s prairie settlement plan, coming to farm at Baintree, Alberta in 1916.  My parents farmed there after them, and that was the land where I spent my childhood. My grandparents died before I was born and left few photos and almost no written legacy, so I have no idea what their attitude or interaction was with First Nations people, for good or bad. I suspect that, as is the case with many settlers, they did not know that they were a part of the government’s scheme to have the west populated in order to protect it from perceived American threat.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, immigrants were lured to the prairies by government propaganda promising a utopia that sadly did not exist. Their lack of knowledge about living within the harsh prairie environment caused these families poverty, starvation, and for some, death. What is rarely told is that indigenous people often came to their aid, sharing meat and fish, and showing them how to use the plants on the land for food and medicine.

The true story of settlement is very different than the glowing picture that government propaganda conveyed. These settlers fought to tame the soil that was often not suited for cultivation, and the wind then took the soil from them. The percentage of homestead failure among early settlers was 57 percent in Saskatchewan and 45 percent in Alberta.* However for the settlers, theirs was a suffering of neglect, not of intent.

So how do we reconcile the good charitable work that faith organizations do, with the evil that has and continues to be perpetrated?  When I asked a Metis friend of mine how any people with indigenous heritage could remain Christian church-goers, she said that it is a fact of the human condition that good and evil always exist together. I suppose that is true, but it is upon us to decide at every moment whether to choose good or evil.

*Gerald Friesen: Saskatchewan historian, author, professor, historical consultant

Posted by Marlena Wyman



Regarding Mary Exhibit: Prairie Madonna


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My exhibit Regarding Mary opened March 10, 2018 at the Bleeding Heart Art Space in Edmonton, AB. I was happy to see both familiar and new faces at the opening reception and artist’s talk. The following are some excerpts from my talk:

My Regarding Mary exhibit is consists of three parts (a Trinity of sorts): Prairie Madonna, Mary Star of the Sea, and Our Lady of Thrift. I will talk about Prairie Madonna in this post, and the other two in a later post.

My paintings in Prairie Madonna are inspired by the archival diaries, letters, memoirs and photographs of early prairie women who were mothers. They write about the isolation that they felt in pregnancy, childbirth and motherhood, and also about the joys that their children brought to them. The isolation and loneliness were a direct result of the homestead system imposed by the government. The checkerboard Dominion Land Survey, unlike the river lot system, created great distances between homesteads. Many women birthed their babies alone. If they were lucky, their husbands were there to help them, or a distant neighbour who had been fetched in time to help with the birth.

Prairie Madonna: Home Births by Marlena Wyman

                                                                         The Translation of the Holy House of Lorento attributed to Saturnino Gatti (Italian   1463-1520)

My painting was inspired by the following quote:

I was conducted into a small bedroom where the patient lay in agony. The clean bed was surrounded by several frustrated women, who were counting their rosary beads while praying loudly and fervently… I recognized a breach presentation; the delivery would indeed be a complicated and difficult one.

Margaret Charlotte Falkson Thomson memoir of summer 1920. Margaret came from Germany in 1919 to the Fort Assiniboine, Alberta area.

(Margaret had been awoken in the night by Tony, the father of the baby, who asked her to help with the birth. The mother’s name was Maria, who emigrated with her family from Italy and spoke very little English.)

Memoir: Provincial Archives of Alberta Accession #PR1984.0156, Photograph: Christina McKinnell & baby daughter, Teulon Manitoba [1902], Glenbow Archives #NA-5236-1

The symbol of Mary as new mother is one that is frequently represented by artists. Some of the poses of prairie women and their children in archival photographs that I have incorporated into my paintings reminded me of early masters’ paintings of the Madonna and Child, which I re-interpreted in a prairie setting.

Prairie Madonna: Blessed Children by Marlena Wyman

                                                               Madonna and Child (The Tempi Madonna) by Raphael, 1508 (Italian High Renaissance)

My painting was inspired by the following quote:

Now we were celebrating [Dolly’s] fourth birthday and as High Prairie was suffering a sugar famine, the birthday cake was of syrup…it did fall flat and was waxy but oh the joy of the little ones over it! …clapping hands, exclaiming and rejoicing, danced in front of it…Blessed indeed are we who look for our happiness in the lives of little children! To a grownup, the cake would have meant a flat failure…to Nookie and Dolly and Baby Jim it was the centre of a golden day.

Alda Dale Randall diary, 11 March 1920, Pg 100-101. Dale came from North Dakota to the Barons/Stavely area of Alberta in 1917, and then to the High Prairie area in 1919

Diary: Provincial Archives of Alberta Accession # PR1994.0202, Photograph: Mrs. Wright & baby Frederick, Calgary AB 1912, Glenbow Archives # PA-4048-95

My art practice focuses on the first immigrant women who came to the prairies. In my former work as an archivist, I found that one of the significant gaps in archival collections is that of women’s stories. In particular, the voice of early prairie women is largely excluded from mainstream history. Among other accomplishments, women were community builders. They started the churches, schools, and charities, organised social functions, and brought arts and culture to their communities.

The first women who immigrated here with their husbands had no rights and no choice in coming. If their husband wanted to go, they came along. They had no legal right to the land that they worked with their husbands. Although they were not considered legal partners, they were partners – not just helpmates – in the labour that it took to work the land. And when that work was done, they then shouldered most of the responsibility for work in the home. They had no reproductive rights to their bodies and the babies kept coming. Then, as mothers, they had no rights to their children, and could not claim custody if they were running from abuse or if they were abandoned by their husbands.

Prairie Madonna: Letters of Desperation by Marlena Wyman

                                             Madonna and Child Blessing by Giovanni Bellini, 1510 (Italian Renaissance)

My painting was inspired by the following quote:

I am a mother of 5 children, the oldest being 7 years. I am 25 years old. We live on the farm, but owing to sickness we haven’t got on very well. I trust we will do better soon, but debts are a very constant worry… Please send information on birth control.

 Letter from “Another Reader” to the Western Producer newspaper, November 10, 1927

 I am 31, the mother of 7 children, eldest 11 years, and youngest 8 months, not at all strong, and owing to farm conditions, very heavily in debt. I would like to have any information I can get re birth control.

 Letter from “Mrs. E.J.M.” to the Western Producer newspaper, September 29, 1927.

(These and other similar letters were written to Violet McNaughton (nee Jackson), the Editor of the Western Producer newspaper’s Women’s Column from 1925 to 1950. Violet was an agrarian feminist and among her many other accomplishments, she headed a campaign to bring trained midwives and health care to farm families. With Violet’s help, farm women were able to obtain birth control information, which was illegal at the time, through cover activities such as sewing circles.)

Photograph: Unidentified woman and child [1900], Provincial Archives of Alberta #A21376

In spite of the endless and exhausting work, it was these same early prairie women who amazingly found the time to gain rights and freedoms for women all across Canada. We owe them a debt of gratitude and we cannot let these rights fall away, especially in an age where we are seeing regressive human rights policies.

Prairie Madonna: A Corner of the Earth by Marlena Wyman

                                                                   Virgin and Child in a Flower Garland attributed to Jean Baptiste Morel, (Flemish 17th century)

My painting was inspired by the following quote:

In log cabins and sod shacks, fifty and even one hundred miles from the railways are thousands of brave women living on the western prairies, bearing the cross of motherhood without proper care and giving the best of their lives in the struggle to win a corner of the earth which they and their families may call home.

Front page, The Grain Growers Guide, 27 November 1912. Photograph: Pauline, friend of artist’s paternal grandmother, Lily Wyman [1916] Collection of the artist.

As an artist, I honour these women’s considerable contributions, advocate for their rightful place in history, and encourage women to deposit their own and their foremothers’ records in archives.

I also want to take time to express gratitude to the good men who supported women historically in their fight for rights, and who continue to do so. When women were granted the right to vote, it would not have been possible without the good men who supported them.

Posted by Marlena Wyman



Alda Dale Randall Travels to Okotoks


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My exhibit Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall opened at the Okotoks Art Gallery March 3, 2018. It was first installed at the Provincial Archives of Alberta’s exhibit space from February 2nd to August 20, 2016.

Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall exhibit at the Okotoks Art Gallery

Because the subject matter of this exhibit holds personal meaning for farm families, I had been hoping to take it to a rural gallery. I am very pleased that the Okotoks Art Gallery accepted my submission, and that “Dale” has now been able to travel to southern Alberta.

The Eagle 100.9 Okotoks Online carried an article about the exhibit. For further background, you also can read my previous posts from 2016 here.

For the closing of the exhibit at Provincial Archives of Alberta, a family reunion event was hosted for the Randall family. I think that Dale has a way of bringing family together, because at the opening of the Okotoks exhibit, my family came from Rockyford AB, Calgary AB, Lethbridge AB, Edmonton AB, Penticton BC, and Maple Ridge BC for a family reunion. Twenty of us converged on the Okotoks Art Gallery and we had hug-fest and then moved on to a family supper and more celebrating after the opening.


While at the Gallery, my brother Todd lost a button from his shirt. He became part of an interactive art performance with my artwork The Sewing Chair and The Garden in Back. I borrowed a needle and thread from the chair and re-enacted the heritage handiwork of many prairie women before me.

I was pleased that Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall is paired with Kim Henigman Bruce’s Disbound in the other exhibit space at the Okotoks Art Gallery. The subject matter of women’s lives is one that underlies both of our art practices.

Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall exhibit at the Okotoks Art Gallery

Artist Marlena Wyman in front of one of her paintings and a reproduction of a page from Alda Dale Randall’s diary. 

Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall exhibit at the Okotoks Art Gallery

Both exhibit run until April 7, 2018. If you are in the area, please come by and check them out.

Posted by Marlena Wyman

March is art month


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I have been working toward two exhibits that open in March. An artist’s life is odd on more than one level. We can send out submissions and get polite rejections after polite rejection, and then two exhibits are accepted almost simultaneously. No complaints, though.

At least I am not having to produce madly for both exhibits. The exhibit that opens first, Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall, will be at the Okotoks Art Gallery in southern Alberta from March 3 to April 7, 2018. It was originally mounted in the Provincial Archives of Alberta’s exhibit space in 2016, and I am thrilled to see “Dale” travel to Okotoks. I wrote about that exhibit in previous posts on my blog but I will be writing more posts that are specific to the Okotoks venue.

The exhibit that follows closely on the heels of the Okotoks exhibit is Regarding Mary. It is at the Bleeding Heart Art Space in Edmonton from March 10 to April 7, 2018. It includes a few pieces that were in the SkirtsAfire festival last year at the Nina Haggerty Gallery, but I have been in the middle of a creation storm in my studio for Regarding Mary, so watch for posts about that too.

Enough for now – I need to get back to Mary in my studio.

Marlena Wyman’s studio


Posted by Marlena Wyman


“Headwind” installation and exhibit by Marlena Wyman


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Headwind installation by Marlena Wyman at the Ortona Armouries Arts Building, Edmonton, AB

Wind has long been known to have an effect on the psyches of those of us who live on the prairies. My art installation, Headwind inhabits Edmonton’s Ortona Gallery as an embodiment of wind.

The clothesline was first featured in my 2014 Sisterhood of Longing Exhibit.

You can take a tour of my exhibit with this video:

in my former work as an archivist, I saw that the voice of early prairie women is largely excluded from mainstream history. This spurred a desire in me to bring their stories to light.

When I research early prairie women’s diaries and letters, I see many references to the wind and how it impacted their lives, mainly as a hostile force.

Cecily Jepson Hepworth’s diary page, April 1931. 

The few times that it is referred to in the positive, it is labelled a breeze, appreciated for keeping the swarms of mosquitoes and black flies at bay, and helping to dry the constant rounds of laundry.

However, most often the wind on the bleak southern prairie gave rise to physical and mental torment, amplified by the isolation and loneliness that the homestead system created. This was felt most keenly by the first wave of settler women who rarely had the opportunity to travel to see neighbors or go to town for supplies and the socializing that these trips allowed the men.

In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, immigrants were lured to the prairies by government propaganda promising a utopia that did not exist. Their lack of knowledge about living within the harsh prairie environment caused loss and privation. They fought to tame the soil that was often not suited for cultivation, and the wind then took the soil from them.

The settler women whose quotes and photographs inspired this exhibit are listed below:

(view video above to see quotes and images in exhibit)

Diaries, letters and memoirs:

Evelyn Springett’s published memoir, For my Children’s Children, 1937. Evelyn came to the Macleod, Alberta area from Quebec in 1893. 

Anne Pringle Hemstock’s letter to her Aunt Nell, May 6, 1932. Anne came to the Hanna, Alberta area from Chatsworth, Ontario in 1918. Letters: The Alberta Women’s Memory Project, Athabasca University.

Cecily Jepson Hepworth’s diary, 1931 and 1934. Cecily came to the Readlyn, Saskatchewan area from Chorley, Lancashire, England in 1930. Diaries: Saskatchewan Archives R-E190.

Esther G. (Vann) Cooper’s memoir. Esther came to Pangman SK (south of Regina) from Kirkby Mallory, Leicestershire, England in 1912. Saskatchewan Archives #R-E539.

Edna Banks’ memoir, 1911. Edna came to the Swift Current area of Saskatchewan from Ontario in 1911. Memoir: Saskatchewan Archives S-F137.1, R-E2912

Photos: Pauline ____, Baintree, Alberta, ca. 1920s, private collection.

Ms Averbach, ca 1920s. Jewish Archives and Historical Society of Edmonton and Northern Alberta.

Clara Lawrence, Peace River area Alberta, 1902. Glenbow Archives #NA-2502-16

Mrs. Hugh Leavitt, Cardston area, Alberta, ca. 1920s. Glenbow Archives #NC-7-970

Exhibit hours: Saturdays & Sundays    1pm to 5pm    May 13 to 28, 2017

The Ortona Gallery, Ortona Armouries Arts Bldg, 9722 – 102 Street, Edmonton, Alberta

For further details, see “Exhibits”, “3-D & Installation” and “Prairie Series” on my website.

My artwork centres on the concepts of memory, remembrance, history, and storytelling. In my work as an archivist at the Provincial Archives of Alberta, I found a significant gap in women’s history in archival collections and in the historical record.

As an artist, I honour these women’s considerable contributions, advocate for their rightful place in history, and encourage women to deposit their own and their foremothers’ records in archives.

I wish to acknowledge that the land on which early prairie immigrants settled, in what is now Alberta and Saskatchewan, includes Treaties 4, 6, 7, 8 and 10, the traditional territories of Indigenous peoples.

Artist Marlena Wyman

–  All photographs and artwork copyright Marlena Wyman.

Mary, Star of the Sea


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20170304_140638_resized_1Marlena Wyman with her installation Mary, Star of the Sea at the Nina Haggerty Gallery, Edmonton

I spent yesterday setting up my installation at the Nina Haggerty Gallery, and I am happy with how all my pieces work as a whole. My studio is small, so I wasn’t able to see everything together until they were installed in the gallery.  I saw some of the other other artists works for the first time and they are all exciting and thought-provoking.

img_6017In/Hospitable exhibit at Nina Haggerty Gallery showing works by Lana Whiskeyjack, Michelle Lavoie and Marlena Wyman

The title of my installation for the In/Hospitable Women group exhibit at the SkirtsAfire Festival is Mary, Star of the Sea. It is an ancient name for the Virgin Mary that is common in Catholic coastal and fishing communities. Newfoundland has numerous Catholic churches named for Mary, Star of the Sea and Our Lady, Star of the Sea.

My installation includes ten 8”X10” Mary Portraits …img_6005

…and a 30” high Mary figure made from plaster, modeling clay, sea shells, beach glass, china shards and other mixed media.



Over time, I have collected small Mary figures at thrift stores, and these also form a part of the installation along with seashells, many of which I collected on Newfoundland beaches.


The curator for the exhibit, Mary Joyce, states:

Women who love art enough to want to make it have to make hard choices that allow them time for their work. Traditionally, women are hosts of their children from conception onwards, for their husbands, for their parents, for their friends, for household livestock, feeding, washing, medicating, teaching, entertaining. Only love makes it sensible. Certain guests might find a woman who wishes to be an artist lacking in hospitality. Visitors such as flocks of birds, oil wells, a divine embryo, explorer-colonizer-thieves of culture, penetrations of invisible electronic global information, and pressure to stay traditionally “grounded” get beautiful, thoughtful examination in this show.  


Photographs and artwork by Marlena Wyman

The Mary Portraits


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My first experience of Newfoundland was via an artist’s residency in 2006. Artist’s residencies and retreats have always affected and guided my work. After discovering the cemeteries in the area where I was staying, my artwork took a new direction, and I ended up spending most of my residency photographing and painting in the cemeteries, which is where I found many inspiring Marys. I have returned to Newfoundland many times, and each time I am drawn to the hand-painted Marys in the graveyards.

img_0273Photos of the Newfoundland Marys on the Mary wall in my studio.

As I mentioned in The Mary Wall post, Newfoundland seems to have three or four unfinished plaster-cast versions of Mary that can be purchased and hand painted by family and/or friends of deceased loved ones and placed beside headstones in graveyards.

I have recently completed a series of ten small 8″X10″ portraits based on my photographs of these Newfoundland Marys. They will form part of my installation in the upcoming In/Hospitable group exhibit at the SkirtsAfire Festival in the Nina Haggerty Gallery.

The portraits are image transfers onto encaustic on cradled birch panels. The backgrounds are image transfers of vintage ocean-themed wallpaper.

Although most of the plaster-cast Marys are from similar molds, two of the molds differ from the rest:

1-wide-eyed-mary    2-disfigured-maryWide Eyed Mary by Marlena Wyman               Disfigured Mary by Marlena Wyman

Wide-Eyed Mary is from one of the Stations of the Cross at the Sacred Heart Grotto in Lance Cove on Bell Island, Newfoundland. Her piercing blue eyes are encircled by generous eyelashes.

Disfigured Mary is an interesting enigma. The plaster cast obviously did not release properly from the mold, leaving her nose and mouth disfigured, but that did not seem to bother whoever painted her and placed her beside a headstone at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Conception Harbour, Newfoundland.

I have grouped the other Mary portraits in pairs:

3a-cross-eyed-mary3b-mydriasis-maryCross-Eyed Mary by Marlena Wyman           Mydriasis Mary by Marlena Wyman

Cross-Eyed Mary is one of my favourites. There is such an aura of sweetness to her. She was one of the first Marys that I found in 2006 at the Bellevue Roman Catholic Cemetery in Newfoundland. Her heart bursts forth in a bright startling red, perhaps resulting in her optical condition.

She is paired with a Mary who suffers from another eye condition: Mydriasis Mary’s eternally dilated pupils are a striking feature, as is her finely detailed sacred heart. She resides in St. Anne’s Cemetery in Conception Harbour, Newfoundland.

4a-plain-mary4b-glamorous-maryPlain Mary by Marlena Wyman                     Glamorous Mary by Marlena Wyman

Plain Mary is sweet in her simplicity, and she is the only Mary who I have seen with a valentine sacred heart. Her home is in the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Colliers, Newfoundland.

She is paired with Glamorous Mary of St. Anne’s Cemetery in Conception Harbour, Newfoundland, who has been made up with bright red lipstick and a beautifully detailed sacred heart.

5a-suspicious-mary5b-concerned-marySuspicious Mary by Marlena Wyman           Concerned Mary by Marlena Wyman

Suspicious Mary is on the lookout for any potential wrongdoings at St. Anne’s Cemetery in Conception Harbour, Newfoundland.

She is paired with Concerned Mary at the same cemetery. Do these two know something that the others are not aware of at St Anne’s?

6a-world-weary-mary6b-sleeping-maryWorld Weary Mary by Marlena Wyman         Sleeping Mary by Marlena Wyman

Poor World Weary Mary has had enough.  Not even the peaceful surroundings of St. Patrick’s Cemetery in Ship Cove, Newfoundland are enough to lift her tired countenance.

She is paired with Sleeping Mary of the Immaculate Conception Cemetery in Colliers, Newfoundland, who has found the secret to everlasting contentment in slumber.

The commercially produced Virgin Mary that most of us encounter is one of consistent beauty. The hand-painted, heartfelt Marys of Newfoundland evoke both humour and pathos, but above all, represent a loving tribute that is touchingly and imperfectly human.

My next post will include some of the 3-dimensional artwork that I am including in my installation.

All artwork and photographs by Marlena Wyman


The Mary Wall


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img_0270The Mary wall in Marlena Wyman’s studio

I am not a religious person. I spent a few years of my youth in the United Church but I stopped attending church when I left home. There are aspects of organized religion that I know are positive such as charity and community, but I am troubled when I see intolerance and inequality.

It is odd, then, that I have a fascination with the Blessed Virgin Mary. However, as an artist whose work is largely memory-based, I visit cemeteries for inspiration, both at home and when I travel.  They provide me with history and stories of the community. I think of them as creative spaces as well as places of private contemplation and reflection.

When visiting cemeteries, I seek out and photograph the Virgin Mary for her aspect of meditative calm and peace. My interest in women’s history also brings Mary to me; a strong female figure in a religion that can be inhospitable to women.

I began to create a wall of photographs of Mary in my studio, and have added Mary figures and collectibles that I have found in thrift stores. It has become an unintentional shrine of sorts.


When Mary Joyce, curator of the In/Hospitable exhibit at the upcoming SkirtsAfire Festival, came for a studio visit, she saw my Mary wall and immediately suggested it as inspiration for my artwork in the group exhibit. I have been looking for a possible creative project for my Marys, so I was delighted to have this spark to get me going.

For the exhibit, I decided to focus on the cemeteries of Newfoundland which are populated with small Mary figures. Newfoundland seems to have three or four unfinished plaster-cast versions of Mary that can be purchased and hand painted by family and/or friends of deceased loved ones. These Marys suffer some of the most inhospitable conditions of Newfoundland’s wind and weather due to the local tradition that the dead be buried overlooking the ocean.

bellevue-cemeteryBellevue Cemetery, Newfoundland

img_3543Conch, Newfoundland

I will post photos of my art installation over the next few weeks, leading up to the In/Hospitable exhibit at the Nina Haggerty Gallery, which will take place at the SkirtsAfire Festival from March 6 to 12, 2017.

All photographs by Marlena Wyman

Family Reunion at Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall


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My exhibit at the Provincial Archives of Alberta ended with a bang. The archives hosted a Randall family reunion at the exhibit on August 20th, and 53 Randall family members were there. I had a wonderful time talking with the family, finding out even more about this amazing woman, and seeing photos of her for the first time.

alda-dale-randall-in-gardenAlda Dale Randall, [1920]. Photograph courtesy of the Randall family


When I first thought of creating my exhibit from Alda Dale Randall’s diary, I tried to locate family through obituaries and the High Prairie Museum, but had no luck. Then three sisters who are Dale’s granddaughters, noticed an ad for the exhibit in the Edmonton Journal. Surprised at seeing their grandmother’s name as an exhibit title, they came to take a look. They contacted me through the archives and I met with them and had a lovely talk with these three warm, engaging women. The Events Coordinator at the archives then had the brilliant idea to host a family reunion at the exhibit.

dsc_2013Sisters Kitty, Heather and Lisa: Alda Dale Randall’s granddaughters

With just a few weeks’ notice, the sisters were able to contact Randall family members to come together in Edmonton from across Alberta and as far as Victoria, Kelowna, Saskatchewan and San Diego, California. Some family members had not seen each other in decades.dsc_1873




Speeches of welcome were made by the Provincial Archivist Leslie Latta and Edmonton-Mill Creek MLA, Denise Woollard. I spoke about Dale as my inspiration, and Lisa Randall spoke on behalf of the family. Media were in attendance to cover the event, including the Edmonton Journal and Global News, and the story was picked up in Florida by art, agriculture and agri-tourism blogger Shauna Lee Lange.


I was glad to have the opportunity to talk to the family about how inspirational and touching I had found their grandmother’s/great-grandmother’s diary to be.

dsc_1905Lisa Randall’s informative and entertaining talk

Randall family members brought photos and family archives to the event as well as artworks that Dale had painted (yes – she was also an artist!)


One of my objectives as an artist is to create a connection with history (most specifically women’s history), my artwork and the viewer. The Randall family reunion that took place at the Provincial Archives of Alberta was a rare and moving opportunity to directly connect all three. Past and present lives were reunited in an exchange of thoughts and feelings with and between Alda Dale Randall’s descendants, within the environment of the exhibit that was inspired by her, and surrounded by her historic words.



I am so happy that another of “my” prairie women is receiving attention and recognition for her story and achievements.

Unless otherwise indicated, all photographs are courtesy Provincial Archives of Alberta. Thanks to the Provincial Archives of Alberta and its dedicated staff for their considerable part in this exhibit and for their dedication to preserving Alberta’s history. Thanks also to the designers and communications staff at Alberta Culture and Tourism. 


Posted by Marlena Wyman

A tremendous thunderstorm hovered around us


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Harcourt House Gallery in Edmonton has a members’ exhibit every year during The Works Art & Design Festival. I am a member of Harcourt House and I like members’ exhibits, so I try to paint something for the exhibit each year.

A tremendous thunderstorm hovered around us - Marlena Wyman (1)A tremendous thunderstorm hovered around us by Marlena Wyman, encaustic, oil stick and image transfer

The subject of this painting, as has been the subject for most of my recent artworks, is the experience of early settler women on the prairies. This piece is inspired by a quote from the diary of Jane Frances (Warne) Sutton.

A tremendous thunderstorm hovered around us from W. to N. all this evening. The lightening was terrible. 10:30 I think it has gone beyond us. The air is fearfully hot and the wind is whistling, but no rain.

Excerpt is from Jane Frances (Warne) Sutton’s diary, dated July 23, 1908 (Saskatchewan Archives Board #R-2007-09 F-398 File 3)

Jane moved to Fertile Valley, NWT (later Saskatchewan) from England in 1884 and then moved with her husband to Outlook in 1903.

Photograph is of Ann Oliver, Edmonton, NWT (later Alberta), 1895 (Provincial Archives of Alberta #B8376)

Posted by Marlena Wyman