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I have not been posting lately, mainly because I have been working in the studio on my newest exhibit, Illuminating the Diary of Alda Dale Randall, which will be in the Provincial Archives Of Alberta‘s exhibit space from February 2nd to August 20, 2016, opening February 10th. If you plan to attend the opening, please RSVP paaevents@gov.ab.ca or 780-427-1750.

Marlena Wyman - Exhibit Poster (2)


In a way, I am returning home with this exhibit. I worked as the Audio/Visual Archivist at the Provincial Archives of Alberta for 28 years, leaving in 2010 to further pursue my art practice.

My creative vision for this exhibit is guided by the words of Alda Dale Randall (nee Black), written in her diary almost 100 years ago. She wrote her diary from 1920 to 1935, but her most complete diary, and the year that I based my artworks on, is 1920. Her words crowd the 6” X 15” pages of a thick ledger book, intended for bookkeeping. This diary forms a remarkably detailed story of day-to-day homestead life in the High Prairie area of Alberta with her husband Guy and their three children (by 1929 there were seven children).

Framed scans of those pages from Dale’s diary that inspired my artworks will be exhibited alongside the artworks. The original diary is held in the collection of the Provincial Archives of Alberta, and may be requested for viewing during regular Reading Room hours.


Alda Dale Randall diary, Page 121 -122. Sat. Sept 25, 1920 (Provincial Archives of Alberta, Accession #PR1994.0202

At the time of this diary entry, the Randalls were living in a tent and Dale was 6 months pregnant.

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.

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.

Marlena Wyman - Trees were crashing all around

“Trees were crashing all around” by Marlena Wyman. 16″X12″. Monotype, oil stick and oil pastel on encaustic and paper. 2015 (vintage photo in this artwork is an unidentified found photo)

My monotypes consist of image transfers of cropped archival photographs and vintage wallpapers burnished onto a smoothed encaustic (beeswax) surface on paper. I manipulate the image transfers and apply oil stick and oil pastel to the encaustic surface, which is then sealed with carnauba wax.

My interest in the technique of monotype on encaustic lies in its subtle and atmospheric quality that is not possible with printed photographs and direct painting techniques.

Dale’s descriptions of day-to-day life are revealing of the physical challenges and of the rawness of emotions that balanced precariously between hope and despair. Her diary was a rich source of inspiration for me and a challenge to limit the passages that I selected for my artworks.

I know, no more than you, how this story is coming out but I shall write it day by day and we shall see what we shall see with a wee bit of prayer that it may be brave and bright.        Alda Dale Randall diary, 1920

Watch for more posts about the artworks in my exhibit over the next few weeks.

Posted by Marlena Wyman