archival diaries, archival letters, archival photographs, art exhibits, beeswax image transfer prints, Diana Chabros, Marlena Wyman, pioneer prairie women, Prairie Wind and Silver Sage Gallery, Provincial Archives of Alberta, Saskatchewan Archives, Val Marie Saskatchewan, watercolour paintings
I have an exhibit of new limited edition beeswax image transfer prints at Prairie Wind and Silver Sage Museum Gallery in Val Marie, Saskatchewan. This exhibit continues my theme from The Sisterhood of Longing exhibit earlier this spring at the Jackson Power Gallery in Edmonton. It was important to me to bring my prairie women “back home” to a rural gallery, so I am very excited about this opportunity. I am exhibiting with the very talented Val Marie artist Diana Chabros. Diana also runs the Sky Story B&B in Val Marie where we stay when we visit there. She offers an artist’s discount and warm hospitality.
The prints for this exhibit are inspired primarily by the diaries and letters of Saskatchewan women settlers. They are created by incorporating both my original ink & watercolour paintings and archival photographs.
Here are the quotes that inspired Prairie Mother, my print on the poster:
June 15, 1910: I had quite a time getting the cows milked and calves fed…the baby cried when I left her alone so I had to take her out on the go cart…I often wish Lorne had some trees to play under. He plays in the hot sun – he is so brown. Quote from Margaret Coronachan’s (née McCrie) letters. Margaret came to the Macklin area of Saskatchewan from Sarnia, Ontario in 1910. (Saskatchewan Archives R-E318)
On the rough 12 mile ride, with the horses getting the ship frequently, I learned that Maria had been in labour a long time…I was conducted into the 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. Quote from Margaret Charlotte Faulkson Thomson’s memoir, 1920. Margaret came to the Fort Assiniboine area of Alberta from Germany in 1919. (Provincial Archives of Alberta, PR1984.156)
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. Quote from Mrs. E.J.M.’s letter to the Western Producer Magazine, September 29, 1927. (Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science & Technology Library)
I stared silently at the small house, sitting so alone, so unprotected in the middle of thousands of acres of snow… Quote from Edna Banks’ memoir, 1911. Edna came to the Swift Current area of Saskatchewan from Ontario in 1911. (Saskatchewan Archives S-F137.1, R-E2912)
I think the two words, silence and whiteness, will ever be associated in my mind. In those dreary winter months, when almost all life had deserted the prairie, and often the horizon was indistinguishable and one could not see where snow ended and sky began, it seemed as if there could be nothing but silence and whiteness in all the world… Quote from Hilda Kirkland’s memoir, 1895-1905. Hilda came to the Qu’Appelle district of Saskatchewan from London, England in the late 1800s. (Saskatchewan Archives, S-F266.1, R-E3149)
Flour and sugar came in 50 and 100 lb cotton sacks. With frugality as a way of life, pioneer women re-used these sacks and feed bags to make household articles such as tablecloths, sheets, pillowcases, curtains, handkerchiefs and clothing. Embroidery or crocheted edges were sometimes added to make the end products prettier and less revealing of their humble origins. Flour bag companies later began to print floral and plaid patterns on the bags to cater to this re-use.
Sometimes you didn’t get into town for a month at a time especially in winter. When you went to buy the patterned flour bags, you looked them over to see which you would like to make into clothes. Nothing was wasted at our house. Quote from interview by the artist with Ada Forsyth at the Wolf Willow Health Centre in Eastend, Saskatchewan, April 9, 2013. Ada was born in 1916 on her parents’ homestead near Eastend and homesteaded in the same area after marrying her husband in 1937.
I make everything I can out of flour sacks…I made the girls middies out of dyed flour sacks. I dyed some pink, they look alright with a little white piping on them…I have to make skirts and drawers out of flour sacks too, and a good many other things. Quote from Gertie Chase’s letters to her mother, October 28, 1922 and December 3, 1923. Gertie came to the Wapiti River area of Alberta, from Tonasket, Washington State in . (Provincial Archives of Alberta PR1973.0569. Also inspired by a photograph of the LaFramboise family, [1930s], private collection, unknown location)
This print ended up being very time intensive. I found photos of vintage flour sack fabric prints online and transferred eight of them individually onto each of the family’s garments.
For this exhibit, I framed the quotes alongside each of the prints. The story of prairies women’s lives is one that is so important and one that is largely neglected by mainstream history. Through my exhibits, I hope to shed some light on their significant contributions.
I will be attending the opening on June 26th and I am also offering an encaustic painting workshop in Val Marie on Saturday June 28th.
I am looking forward to my time in Val Marie and in the adjacent Grasslands National Park – an area of incredible beauty and spirit. If you are in that part of the world over the summer, drop in to the gallery, and take a walk though Grasslands National Park – it is truly one of Canada’s great natural treasures.
My thanks to the Edmonton Arts Council for awarding me a travel grant for this exhibit.
Posted by Marlena Wyman