archival letters, archival photographs, art exhibits, City of Edmonton Archives, City of Edmonton Historian Laureate, Edmonton Alberta, encaustic paintings, Gladys Reeves, Jackson Power Gallery Edmonton, Marlena Wyman, pioneer prairie women, Provincial Archives of Alberta, Silver Heights Peony Garden
The exhibit Archived Land : Terrain Archivé that I am taking part in as one of my Historian Laureate projects will be closing on Saturday September 29th. I will be there that day from noon to 5pm to give tours of my installation and if you come in you can also talk to some of the other artists about their thought-provoking installations.
You can read about Gladys Reeves’s many contributions that she made in the 1920s to 1940s for the beautification of Edmonton and the preservation of the natural beauty its ravines and river valley in my August 28th post.
For those who cannot come to the exhibit, here are some glimpses:
Back to the Garden by Marlena Wyman, Image transfer, oil stick and encaustic on birch panel, 12”X24”
“Back to the garden” might well be a motto put into action by employed and unemployed alike; it costs little for seed, and the energy & time will be amply repaid by the fresh vegetables with which to help out our larder, & a few 10 cent packets of flower seed will brighten many a lot & cheer us up if we feel depressed. …Gladys Reeves
Excerpt from Gladys Reeves’s notes for her “Clean up, Paint up, Plant up” campaign, Edmonton, . Provincial Archives of Alberta #1974.0173.60. Photo of Gladys Reeves,  Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.0173.610. Photographer unidentified
I Love Trees by Marlena Wyman. Image transfer, oil stick and encaustic on birch panel, 12”X24”
I love trees, I love beautiful home surroundings, & I want the visitors to our City to take home with them the impression that the People of Edmonton must love their City or they would not have taken the trouble to make it lovely. …Gladys Reeves
Excerpt from a speech by Gladys Reeves : Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.0173.39a. Photograph of Gladys Reeves, : Provincial Archives of Alberta #B7351. Photographer: Ernest Brown
Gladys as River Valley Warrior by Marlena Wyman. Image transfer, oil stick and encaustic on birch panel, 20”X16”
Those of us who have lived among Edmonton’s ravines and river banks enough to know and love them, to have drunk in the beauty of the bursting leaf buds in the Spring; the restful swath of green in the Summer; the riot of color during our Autumn days & the magic of Jack Frost’s artistry on a hoar frosty morning in winter…wonder if the real beauty is better viewed from the top road, rather than by cutting a gash right through the centre of these lines of beauty… …Gladys Reeves
Excerpt from Gladys Reeves’s letter to the Editor of the Edmonton Journal protesting road development in the river valley, . Provincial Archives of Alberta #1974.0173.33. Photo of Gladys Reeves dressed as Britannia: Provincial Archives of Alberta #1974.0173.603. Photographer unidentified
Gladys promoted trees rather than peonies in her letter to John Blue, Secretary of the Edmonton Board of Trade, February 20, 1925. (Provincial Archives of Alberta #PR1974.0173.45a):
Re: the tree planting, I think I can say with truth that it was conceived in my studio when a Nursery representative called to ask me if the Horticultural Society would sponsor a peony planting campaign. I told him peonies were too much of a luxury…After further conversation the idea of a Tree Planting Campaign was formed.
Although I am very glad that she took on the planting of trees, I have always loved peonies and they remind me of visiting my Aunt Roberta in Calgary when I was little (as do Bleeding Heart flowers), so I included a painting of peonies in my exhibit.
Peony Garden by Marlena Wyman. Image transfer, oil stick and encaustic on birch panel, 12” X 24”
It always seemed to me that the herbaceous peony is the very epitome of June. Larger than any rose, it has something of the cabbage rose’s voluminous quality; and when it finally drops from the vase, it sheds its petticoats with a bump on the table, all in an intact heap, much as a rose will suddenly fall, making us look up from our book or conversation, to notice for one moment the death of what had still appeared to be a living beauty. …Vita Sackville-West
Photo of Mary Rose Carson and son Robin in garden with peonies, Edmonton, . City of Edmonton Archives, Rene Oswald fonds #MS-665, EA-597-21. Photographer unidentified
Dr. James Brander was the peony advocate for Edmonton. If you live anywhere from Vancouver to Winnipeg and have peonies in your garden, they are very likely descendants of peonies from his Silver Heights Peony Garden in Edmonton.
Dr. James Brander and children, Silver Heights Peony Garden. Provincial Archives of Alberta #B6794. Photographer: Ernest Brown
Dr. Brander came to Edmonton in 1911. He purchased 5 acres of land in the Bonnie Doon neighbourhood and established the Silver Heights Peony Garden there in 1921. The garden was located between 84th and 96th Streets, and 92nd and 94th Avenues.
Both James and his father George, who helped manage the peony garden as a retirement project, had an avid interest in horticulture. As the garden grew, cut flowers and peony roots were sold to retail outlets across western Canada.
The extensive garden, that eventually included other types of flowers, shrubs and fruit trees, was closed in 1949. Dr. James Brander had hybridized several peonies from the garden and was awarded a lifetime membership in the Western Canadian Horticultural Society for his work.
Brander’s garden was the source for many of the peonies we still see across western Canada today. In 2002, Fort Edmonton Park completed a recreation of the garden, which includes 26 varieties of peonies as well as other flowers.
From The Silver Heights Peony Gardens Historical Research Report by Janne Switzer for Fort Edmonton: City of Edmonton Archives, Parks & Recreation Department fonds #RG21, Series 4, Sub-series 4.3, File 109
Garden installation by Marlena Wyman
As well as the historic didactic panels and my paintings, I have created a garden installation with potted perennials (that I will be planting in my yard after the exhibit), a bunch of willows cut from one of the other artist’s land, dried herbs and flowers hanging from the ceiling, and displays of seeds and dried flowers. In a corner of the exhibit, a chair invites visitors to sit and breathe in the scents of greenery, with the gentle sounds of wind chimes fashioned from broken teacups.
For the sheer curtains hanging in the exhibit, I used a staining technique of hammering fresh leaves and flowers onto the fabric.
Hammered leaf and flower curtain
All a tribute to Gladys Reeves and to our own gardens, both modest and grand.Marlena Wyman exhibit
And finally, here is a video that also includes some of the other artists’ works in the exhibit. I was interested to find that each of us has some aspect of sound in our installations. (Sorry, it’s a bit shaky – I shot it on my phone. Turn the volume up higher after Patrick’s car to hear some of the subtle sounds in the exhibit).
Sit back, put some greenery under your nose, and breathe in.
Posted by Marlena Wyman